Times reporter Ashley Parker, on the Romney campaign trail, used an out-of-context remark by Mitt Romney to rehash Romney’s list of rich-guy campaign gaffes: “‘Poor’ Quote By Romney Joins a List Critics Love.”
On Wednesday morning, after his big primary win in Florida the night before, Romney told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien: "I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair I'll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine.” But liberals and the media pounced on the part in bold above.
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.
On Wednesday morning in an interview with CNN, Mr. Romney said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” a sound bite that ricocheted around the Web and cable news channels, and which Mr. Romney felt the need to clarify with reporters as he flew to Minnesota.
The comment captivated the political chatter, at least for the day, because it seemed to reinforce what might be his rivals’ most potent line of attack against him: that Mr. Romney, with a net worth estimated at $200 million, is out of touch and unable to relate to struggling Americans.
Taking in the full context of his remarks, as Mr. Romney urged reporters to do, his statement seems more benign: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine.” He is most concerned about the middle class, he said.
But for a campaign that has itself been accused of taking President Obama’s words out of context, the remark about the poor immediately became cataloged in a growing list of awkward comments by Mr. Romney, including a remark that his speaking fees last year of $374,327 were “not very much” and his line that “corporations are people.”
Unlike President George W. Bush’s malapropisms, which generally served as late-night punch lines, Mr. Romney’s foot-in-mouth comments have an economic undertone, which have gained traction because they perpetuate his critics’ attacks that he is an unfeeling corporate titan.
“Unfeeling corporate titan” actually marks a small step up for Romney on the Times' moral scale; in the January 10 edition Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg passed on a description of Romney as a "greedy titan.”