Just when Romney seems poised to leave the field in the dust, the candidate said something so stupid that even his supporters are questioning whether he has what it takes to be president.
"I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there," Romney said in an interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien this morning. "If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."
"There are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, 'That sounds odd,'" O'Brien replied.
"Well, finish the sentence, Soledad," Romney said. "I said I'm not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them. We will hear from the Democrat party, the plight of the poor. And there's no question, it's not good being poor, and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor. But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans. You can choose where to focus, you can focus on the rich. That's not my focus. You can focus on the very poor, that's not my focus. My focus in on middle income Americans. Retirees living on Social Security, people who can't find work, folks that have kids that are getting ready to go to college. These are the people most badly hurt during the Obama years. We have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle income Americans, they're the folks that are really struggling right now and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them."
I tried to give as much context to the remark about Romney "not concerned" with the poor. But even with that context, it is clear that Mitt Romney is just not a very good politician.
Jonah Goldberg, Romney supporter:
As a bunch of us have been writing around here for a while, the under-emphasized dynamic in this race isn't that Romney isn't conservative enough (though that's obviously a real concern out there) it's that he's simply not a good enough politician. He may be the most electable on paper. He's certainly a nice guy, decent father, smart, successful etc. But, every time he seems to get into his groove and pull away he says things that make people think he doesn't know how to play the game. That can be reassuring to some, who take it as proof he's not another politician. The problem, for others at least, is that because he isn't a natural politician he breaks the language where it needs to bend. He uses language - "I like to fire people!" "It's nothing to get angry about" etc - that doesn't make him seem like an unconventional politician. Rather his language makes him seem like a caricature of a conventionally stiff country club Republican.
Erick Erickson points out that Romney, by making those remarks, has condemned the poor to dependency on government for their lifetimes. The conservative position has been since the time of Reagan that the poor must be lifted out of poverty by the creation of good jobs - not improvements in social welfare programs.
Erickson also notes:
Note the use of "they're" in talking about the middle class. They have been hurt most. Not the poor. Not the rich. So much for the GOP condemning class warfare. Romney's folks are going with it too. Where Obama goes for "fair shares", Romney wants to focus only on those hurt "most."
But the coup de grace came late today when, to mitigate the damage, Romney reminded everyone he supports automatic hikes in the minimum wage - a truly conservative position.
The way this race is shaping up, it will be go with Newt and lose by a lot or go with Romney and lose by not so much. After 8 years of running for president, Mitt Romney still can't get it right.