How long does it take to set D.C. media/communications mafiosi gunning?
In the Washington spin cycle, gaffes can go from a spokesman's mouth to full-blown tempest in a teapot in a mere six seconds.
Six. Seconds. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Missis....
Case in point: Wednesday's Lilly Ledbetter news moment. In case you missed it (and you likely did), Wednesday began bright and gay as many days do: with a conference call with a group of surrogates from one of the presidential camps.
In this case, it was Team Romney on offense.
Until they took a simple, nonhostile question from HuffingtonPost's Sam Stein: "Does Governor Romney support the Lilly Ledbetter Act?"
Six seconds went by. "Sam," an unidentified voice replied, "we'll have to get back to you on that."
Wait, that doesn't sound like a massive newsmaking event to you? Au contraire.
The Ledbetter Act, the first piece of legislation President Obama signed in 2009, expanded the ability for citizens to sue their employers for unfair pay. Passing Congress with only three Republican votes (all in the House), it was a big win for Mr. Obama with women, in no small part because while anyone can sue his or her employer for pay issues, Ms. Ledbetter was a woman and the case had picked up many prominent backers among women's rights organizations.
So the question put the Romney people in a vise. Republicans, whom former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney must convince he isn't a mushy moderate, despise the law. Women, whom current polling tells us are going to vote for Barack Obama in droves, love it.
But because Team Romney didn't have an answer ready, that gave journalists and Democratic operatives alike a moment to jump into the fray. Then when Romneyville announced they would not seek to overturn the law, everyone got another whack at the piñata.
In the hours that followed, the Democratic National Committee blasted out more than two dozen e-mails with links to stories on the subject, their own quips on the matter, and finally, a statement from DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida late Wednesday night. Chief among these was one entitled "Six LONG seconds" – with a link to a YouTube video of the exchange.
Six seconds of pause? In today's political environment, that can be the difference between a "good" and a "bad" day on the Internet. And that wasn't even the end of the day's twists and turns. Hint: Things ended with Democrats on defense, after Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen quipped on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" that Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, had "never actually worked a day in her life." (Ann even got on Twitter – a first – to mark the occasion!)