[Posted by Karl]
Newt Gingrich is easily branded as a loose cannon. Indeed, I’ve done it, because it’s true. However, frontrunner Mitt Romney is far from immune from self-destructive gaffes:
Obsessive attention to detail suffuses Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president, from the number of times staff members check the microphones at his rallies to their relentless scouring of Twitter.
But Mr. Romney’s aides cannot always bring that well-known level of discipline to one crucial aspect of the campaign: their candidate’s seemingly endless ability to utter remarks that, to the delight of his critics, sail onto political blogs, YouTube and Twitter.
Romney’s comment that “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” caused Jonah Goldberg to ask “What is wrong with this guy?” and to later answer that “as even he will admit, he’s a late arrival. And, as you might expect, he speaks conservatism as a second language.”
It may be worse than that. As Goldberg also noted, “[t]he frustrating problem with Romney is that his flubs and gaffes either share liberal assumptions or are caricatures of conservative ones.” I would argue the problem is more specific. Romney’s gaffes are rooted in his wealth problem. He alternatively makes comments that feed the narrative of an out-of-touch fatcat or irritate the GOP base with faux populism designed to counter that narrative. Indeed, yesterday Romney said that he was not concerned about the very poor or the very rich, when his concern should be whatever benefits America without regard to class issues. Instead, his sensitivity to the wealth issue causes him to not only disregard the affluent and the poor rhetorically, but to produce a mediocre tax plan and to back indexing the minimum wage for inflation, which ironically hurts the poor.
In short, Romney recognizes his wealth is a political liability and his attempts to address that liability often become an additional liability. His discomfort also feeds the perception that he is inauthentic. Unless he finds a personal comfort level with his wealth and its political implications, all of these problems will linger into the general election, where Team Obama will exploit them ruthlessly.