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February 01, 2012

Romney: "I'm Not Concerned About The Very Poor"

It's not as bad as it sounds, because he gets out his message: I care about middle income Americans, not the very poor (he says they have a safety net) and not the very rich (he says they're doing just fine).

This will be called a gaffe. I don't think it's as big as a gaffe as people seem to think. (Corrected: I initially said it wasn't a gaffe. It is. Just not a huge one.)

How many possible Republican voters are going to be put off by the message, "I'm not into expanding the safety net further, I only care about you, middle class voters"?

Not many.

Now that I've expressed my contrarian views on this, I should note Andy, Slu, and Drew disagree sharply, and think this is as stupid a statement as it appears.

I guess the problem with this is "Message: I Care." George Bush senior knew what message he was supposed to deliver. "Message: I Care." The problem was he was idiotic in how he delivered it. Which was just saying, "Message: I care." Just like it was written in his notes.

Romney's election strategy is to pitch completely to the middle class, because that's where the votes are. Plus, if he only talks about the middle class, it helps defang (in theory) the attacks on him as a Rich Guy.

But instead of casting it as a positive -- "My real concern is the middle class, historically the engine of growth in this country" -- he casts it as a negative -- "I'm not really concerned about the very poor."

Dumb. It's just a political rule you don't short-shrift issues like that, stating that you don't care. You always phrase it in the positive way: "Soledad, what really concerns me is X." That was Mitch Daniels' error in discussing social issues -- he didn't have to declare a truce to declare a truce. All he had to do was talk up economic issues to the exclusion of all else.

But -- I just don't think the actual method of expression matters that much. I really just don't think people are paying attention to the extent we are, taking into account poor word choices ("Phrasing!" screamed Archer).

I think they're pretty bullet-point. I think "Message: I care" was mostly obsessed over by the media -- people paid to work with words, to whom specific phrasing is a matter of professional interest. I don't think the public really cared that "Message: I care" was clumsy or "on the nose."

So yeah, this is a gaffe, and we can goof on Romney ("Phrasing, Lana!").

But does it matter? Are voters who are barely paying attention deducting points for style?

This seems to be a type of mostly non-partisan media bias that only I'm really noticing. Star Trek geeks will naturally notice if a candidate says that Chekov was the helmsman. (No! It was Sulu!) They are biased in that manner -- they care about that more than most people.

Word-workers really care about words. I don't say that in a dismissive way. I care about words too. However, as in the case of Trekkies, if all you have is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail. So word-workers of the media are constantly scoring statements with an Editor's Eye. And, I think, de-emphasize the content of a communication in favor of nitpicking the particular expression of that communication.

And they do this, of course, primarily to Republicans, when they can score points off it.

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posted by Ace at 11:11 AM

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