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Mitt Romney: Does it hurt him that he's a French-speaking rich guy?

Newt Gingrich thinks Mitt Romney’s linguistic skills are a big deal. Mr. Gingrich is hoping a new French-themed ad appeals to conservative voters in South Carolina.

By Staff writer / January 13, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, campaigns at the University of South Carolina Aiken, in Aiken, S.C., Friday.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Is it a problem for Mitt Romney that he speaks French? We mean that in the context of the presidential election, of course – not his ability to impress the cashiers at Au Bon Pain.

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Newt Gingrich thinks Mr. Romney’s linguistic skills are a big deal, all right. The ex-speaker has a new ad up called, “The French Connection,” that does its best to link Romney to failed Democratic presidential candidates Mike Dukakis and John Kerry. One way in which it does this is to play the French theme, hard.

The ad’s background music is accordions, the kind of thing they use in the soundtrack of low-budget films to say “Paris at night.” It puts up the famous clips of Michael Dukakis in a tank, looking like a chipmunk, and John Kerry windsurfing. (Is windsurfing a French sport?) It ends with this line: “Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney will say anything to win, anything... And just like John Kerry, he speaks French too.”

Then there’s a quick clip of Romney saying “bonjour,” followed by him announcing his name in French.

First off, we’ll say that if Romney speaks French, it’s only barely. In the ad it’s hard to tell if he’s saying his name or ordering a croque monsieur.

But European links indeed are a bad thing, at least to many in the GOP base. Europe is the home of European social democracies, which is what President Obama wants to turn the US into, which is why he’s a socialist. (We’re just repeating the argument.)

You’ll hear “Europe” and “France” invoked as negatives by many speakers at the GOP convention later this year. Just wait.

Plus, to link a US politician to Europe is to say implicitly he’s not the sort of person you could sit down at a sports bar with and have a discussion about whether Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis should retire.

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