Obama gaffe: why judging the economy is a no-win (+video)
Broad statements about the economy – good or bad – are a losing proposition for President Obama. Team Romney will exploit them either way.
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Obama might decide the way to prevent future such mishaps is to avoid unscripted remarks in public. But that’s hard to do when you’re president, even one who gives few press conferences. Obama, famous for his frequent use of a TelePrompTer, knows that he has to be careful with his words – just as Romney, his November opponent, is learning.Skip to next paragraph
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Between now and Election Day, Obama can’t avoid discussing the economy, by far the most important issue for voters. He needs to show middle-class voters he’s aware of their fears and challenges. He also has to be super-careful not to have a “grocery scanner” moment – like the apocryphal story about President George H.W. Bush, who was portrayed in the press as being amazed by everyday technology at the supermarket, a story that was subsequently proven false. That event took place in February 1992, and the misunderstanding stuck with him all the way to Election Day, when he lost.
But Obama is not the first President Bush, whose patrician background lent itself to a narrative of being out of touch with average folks. Obama is in some ways more similar to Sen. John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 nominee, who asserted right before the financial collapse that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
The remark made Senator McCain look ill-informed on the state of the economy. Ditto Obama’s remark, even though he and his team immediately made it clear that he does not believe the economy is strong.
The Romney campaign nevertheless appears ready to pound the “private sector is doing fine” comment all the way to November. Team Obama is also banging hard on Romney’s response – that Washington shouldn’t be funding more firefighters, police, and teachers. The campaign released a video Monday morning.
Obama supporters suggest that most voters aren’t paying close attention yet and won’t be affected by presidential comments made five months before the election. But that might be wishful thinking. Just as Team Obama is recycling Romney gaffes with abandon, Team Romney is likely to do the same all the way to Election Day.