Getting beyond campaign gaffes

Posted Sunday, Feb. 05, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

There's an old saying in political circles: A gaffe is what you make when you unintentionally say what you really believe. If that's the case, Mitt Romney has really been speaking his mind lately.

More accurate, of course, is that in speaking his mind, Romney let slip a few lines that, taken out of context, distort or oversimplify his views.

"I'm not concerned about the very poor," the man reportedly worth $250 million said in an interview.

"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," Romney said in January in a comment that was meant to refer to healthcare insurance providers but was widely perceived as meaning that he likes firing people.

There's no doubt Romney's camp would like to take back those comments, which, fairly or not, reinforce a caricature of him as a wealthy man out of touch with people struggling in a tough economy.

What's a campaign to do?

For starters, experts say, it helps to acknowledge that you've got a problem.

"Campaigns get into trouble when they go into a tailspin of denial," said Kevin Madden, a Romney adviser. "Don't become combative and blame the media or say they're in cahoots with your opponents. The key ingredient is to recognize that whatever gaffe or inartful statement has been made ... that there's a window of opportunity to provide the proper context. You have to relentlessly and methodically provide that context."

In the case of Romney's comment about "the very poor," the candidate and his campaign did immediate damage control, pointing out that poor people have a "safety net" and that Romney's focus is on helping the middle class.

As Romney put it later, "We will hear from the Democrat party [about] the plight of the poor, and there's no question it's not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor."

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?