Spot the problematic language in this quote, which Mitt Romney delivered on CNN this morning:
After winning the Florida primary, GOP presidential nominee hopeful Mitt Romney explains to CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien that he is focused on a particular portion of the American population in his campaign.
Romney says, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair , I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich…. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
O’Brien asked him to clarify his remarks saying, “There are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, ‘That sounds odd.'”
Romney continues, “We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor…. You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus…. The middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.”
I included the full quote to show that what Romney says, in totality, is defensible. He wants to build up the middle class. Fine. But that won’t be the headline coming out of that interview. “I’m not concerned about the very poor” is language too easily used against Mitt Romney, who may be the richest presidential candidate we’ve ever had. It follows “I like to be able to fire people” in being true and defensible in context, but also language that will pose problems later on. The quote about the very poor is sure to show up in Democrat ads if Romney is the nominee, and it will be followed by a bunch of stats and clips depicting his policies as hostile to the poor, or something, to make him and by extension the party that nominated him look heartless, miserly, and out of touch. It won’t be fair, but it will be done. And that sentence, which Romney didn’t have to say, provides the lead for those ads.
A better way to have said what Romney wanted to say might be “Of course I’m concerned about the very poor, as I am concerned about everyone who is struggling in this economy. I am very concerned that this president’s policies have increased poverty and decreased upward mobility. Barack Obama is creating more dependency on government with his wrong-headed policies, straining the safety net that we have in our society. He has no business experience and doesn’t even understand how the private sector functions. I’ve spent most of my life in business, and as president I will focus on creating the conditions to make it easier for everyone to succeed and move up the economic ladder.” Or words to that effect.
If Mitt Romney is to be the GOP nominee, he needs to up his game to make it harder for the MSM and the Democrats to use his own words as weapons against him.
Update: What was that I was saying about headlines?
Romney and his team would do well to remember that their opponents are confirmed serial smear artists. They — the Obama campaign, the Democrats, the NAACP, the media — tried tying the brutal murder of James Byrd to then Gov. George W. Bush, despite the fact that Bush meted out severe justice to Byrd’s killers. There’s no need to hand these folks the weapons to beat you with. They will create their own weapons. Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” hands them a nuke.
Update: An unforced error which Newt Gingrich’s folks are happy to dishonestly exploit.