Share this article

print logo

Romney amassing collection of verbal gaffes; His comments have yet to affect standing in race

Mitt Romney may need a censor.

In the last few weeks in Nevada, the Republican presidential candidate who owns several homes told the state hit hard by the housing crisis: "Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom."

At one point in Iowa, earlier this year, the former venture capitalist said, "Corporations are people," with the country in the midst of a debate over Wall Street versus Main Street.

At an event in economically suffering Florida, the retired Massachusetts governor -- who is a multimillionaire many times over -- told out-of-work voters, "I'm also unemployed."

Over the past year, Romney has amassed a collection of off-the-cuff comments that expose his vulnerabilities and cast him as out-of-touch with Americans who face staggering unemployment, widespread foreclosures and a dire outlook on the economy.

So far, the foot-in-mouth remarks haven't seemed to affect his standing in the nomination race.

Romney has run a far more cautious and disciplined campaign than his losing bid of four years ago. He has kept the focus on his core message: He is the strongest candidate and able to beat President Obama on the biggest issue of the campaign, the economy. He still enjoys leading positions in public opinion polls in early primary states and across the nation. Few of the other Republicans in the race have turned his remarks against him.

However, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney's chief rival with the money to prove it, has started suggesting that Romney lives a life of privilege while he comes from humble roots.

In an interview Friday with CNN, another GOP candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, painted Romney as "a perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day."

Each time Romney says something that makes even his closest aides grimace, Democrats quickly put together a Web video highlighting the remark.

"Mitt Romney's message to Arizona? You're on your own," says a new ad by the Democratic National Committee that jumps on Romney's foreclosure remarks.

Romney's team publicly dismisses their boss' occasional loose lips as inconsequential to voters focused on an unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent.

"It's a long campaign, and at the end of the day people are going to judge Gov. Romney and his ability to take on President Obama over jobs and the economy. And certainly there will be a lot of back and forth as the campaign progresses," said Russ Schriefer, a Romney strategist.

"This election will be decided on big issues because the issues are so big and so important," Schriefer said. "And not on a gaffe or a mistake or a moment, any particularly moment. It's more about the big moments and who voters see and being able to turn the economy around."

Other GOP candidates have made problematic comments.

Herman Cain, asserting that the Wall Street protesters are in the streets to distract from Obama's record, said, "If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself."

Perry suggested that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is "almost treasonous," adding,"If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas."

But a string of unforced errors, when combined, can reinforce unfavorable perceptions of the candidate, as Romney aides privately acknowledge.

In Ohio this week, Romney refused to say whether he would support a state ballot initiative even as he visited a site where volunteers were making hundreds of phone calls to help Republicans defeat it. Issue Two would repeal Ohio Gov. John Kasich's restrictions on public sector employee bargaining.

It turned out that Romney had already weighed in, supporting Kasich's efforts in a June Facebook post. And a day after the Ohio visit, he made clear where he stood, saying he was "110 percent" behind the anti-union effort.