As Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney makes one comment after another indicating he’s out of touch with the financial plight of average Americans, some in the party are beginning to worry that the remarks could hurt him in the general election.
The latest gaffe came Wednesday in an interview with CNN, when Romney said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
To be sure, Romney meant he’s not worried because there’s already a safety net to assist the very poor, and that if the net is torn, he will fix it. But the damage already has been done.
“When you know that the media is against you to start with, which is the case with Romney and [Newt] Gingrich, you have to be extremely careful that you don’t give them a phrase that can go on a bumper sticker,” a Republican congressman told The Hill
Romney has to be more temperate in his future remarks, says Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who has endorsed Gingrich but says he likes Romney too.
“Mr. Romney, unfortunately and through no fault of his own whatsoever, is almost the ideal caricature for the ‘divide America’ strategy of Barack Obama,” Franks told The Hill.
“It’s going to be important for him to be aware of that. Mr. Obama’s strategy is an insidious one, and unfortunately historically effective. My only admonition to Mr. Romney is to be aware of it and to be cautious [that] what he says doesn’t play into that.”
Romney’s presidential competitor Newt Gingrich didn’t take well to the “very poor” remark. When asked about it, he said, “I am fed up with politicians of either party dividing Americans against each other. I am running to be the president of all the American people, and I am concerned about all the American people.”
Unfortunately for Romney and the GOP, the “very poor” comment wasn’t the first that can be used for campaign fodder. Several weeks ago, Romney called his 2011 speaking fees of $374,327 “not very much.” He also said, “corporations are people.”
Last June, speaking to a group of jobless workers in Florida after they explained their circumstances to him, Romney said he could relate.
“I’m also unemployed,” he quipped. “I’m networking. I have my sight on a particular job.”
During one of the presidential debates he offered a $10,000 bet to fellow candidate Rick Perry. Even if the idea was just a joke, it served to remind voters that Romney is worth more than $200 million.
Finally, while campaigning in New Hampshire, Romney claimed that he shared something else in common with American workers, having feared the “pink slip” early in his career.
Some prominent Republicans say Romney is being unfairly maligned.
“I don’t think it’s a concern. This is February, and I’ve seen so much improvement in Mitt Romney in the year that he’s been campaigning,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is neutral in the race, told The Hill.
“Just think of the difference between the speech he gave after he won Florida versus a lot of the other speeches he’s given,” Grassley said. “He realizes that you’ve got to put some emotion into it. You’ll never be elected president being a technocrat. . . . He’s going to become sharper the longer he campaigns.”
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