Tags: midterms | Michelle Obama | gaffes | Braley | Democrats

Michelle Obama's 'Bailey' Gaffe Nothing New on Campaign Trail

Michelle Obama's 'Bailey' Gaffe Nothing New on Campaign Trail
First Lady Michelle Obama. (Landov)

By Thursday, 23 October 2014 08:43 AM Current | Bio | Archive

For the past two weeks, national news outlets such as “CBS This Morning” and late-night comedians have been having fun recalling First Lady Michelle Obama mispronouncing the name of a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate she was campaigning for earlier this month.

In the much-watched clip of the first lady stumping in Iowa for Rep. Bruce Braley, she is shown telling Hawkeye State voters to support “Bruce Bailey” for the Senate.

"You need to elect Bruce Bailey to the U.S. Senate,” says Mrs. Obama, going on to urge voters to go his website: “...vote.BruceBailey.com, that's vote.BruceBailey.com."

The “gaffe” does not seem to be going away. At the regular press briefing at the White House on Wednesday, it was pointed out to Press Secretary Josh Earnest that “the White House put out a transcript last night about the First Lady being with Bruce Braley in the Senate race and … referred to him as a candidate for governor.

“This came a couple weeks after the first lady mispronounced Braley’s name several times. What does this say about Senate Democrats feeling like the White House just keeps messing up on these races?”

What it says about the White House and its political operation will be determined on Nov. 4.

In fairness to the first lady, however, it must be said that in mispronouncing the name of the candidate she was stumping for, she’s in good company.

In his new book “Worthy Fights,” Leon Panetta recalled his first bid for Congress from Northern California in 1976, and a bid from then-House Majority Leader (and Speaker-to-be) Tip O’Neill (D.-Massachusetts).

“[H]e stressed that we were gathered to help ‘my good friend Leo,’” wrote Panetta, “I winced, as did John [Franzen, Panetta’s political consultant], and that wasn’t the end of it. O’Neill kept extolling my potential, urging the crowd to dig in and help ‘Leo.’

“When it was over, finally, my friends in the audience took it all in stride, and donated generously. Fortunately, everyone, including myself, loved the big Irishman from Boston. He could say whatever he wanted if it got people to donate to the campaign.”

In his first bid for office, Panetta unseated seven-term Republican Rep. Burt Talcott with 53 percent of the vote.

Another Democratic candidate who had his name mangled by a visiting campaigner did not fare so well.

When other Michigan Democrats would not step forward in 1966 to challenge popular Republican Gov. George Romney (father of Mitt), State Party Chairman Zolton Ferency [pronounced ‘FAIR’n-see] did.

“He was a peppery campaigner with a flashing wit,” recalled authors David Broder and Stephen Hess in “The Republican Establishment,” “that President [Lyndon] Johnson mispronounced his name during the traditional Labor Day festivities.

“‘My good friend, Zolton [long pause] Fe-REN-cy,’ said the President. ‘Not often, commented the Detroit Free Press, “[do] you run across a man who has such good friends he’s never heard of before.’”

Michelle Obama may get needled about making Bruce Braley “Bruce Bailey” right up to the election and, whether he wins or loses, it is likely that her mispronouncing his name will be part of the story of his contest with Republican Joni Ernst.

But, in fairness to her, the first lady was not the first visiting campaigner to mangle the name of a candidate and she surely won’t be the last.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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National news outlets and late-night comedians have been having fun recalling first lady Michelle Obama mispronouncing the name of a Democratic Senate candidate she was campaigning for, but when it comes to campaign gaffes, she's in good company.
midterms, Michelle Obama, gaffes, Braley, Democrats
Thursday, 23 October 2014 08:43 AM
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