THAT WAS NO GAFFE. THAT WAS A BRAND-NEW TALKING POINT.
(Update: or maybe not so brand-new.)
This is being called a gaffe, but when you get an accidental gaffe from Mitt Romney, believe me, you know it -- when he slips up and says something even he knows is embarrassing, he doesn't repeat it. In this case he did repeat it, carefully and deliberately. So maybe this is a terrible campaign miscalculation, but, in the usual sense of the term, it's not a gaffe:
After winning the Florida primary, GOP presidential nominee hopeful Mitt Romney explains to CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien that he is focused on a particular portion of the American population in his campaign.
Romney says, "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.... I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling." ...
Via Think Progress, here's the clip. I'll explain what I mean below.
By the way, I'm in this race 'cause 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. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling. I'll continue to take that message across the nation.
This is lite dog-whistling. Note that the very poor (and, yes, the very rich) are not, according to Romney, Americans. Romney is codedly implying that a certain Kenyan Muslim socialist Negro with ties to Goldman Sachs and George Soros is, in fact, excessively concerned with the needs of the people at the very top and the very bottom. Maybe it's not racial dog-whistling precisely, but it's Beck-like -- at the deepest level, it taps into the notion that rootless-cosmopolitan sophisticates like Obama (and Soros) wallow in government-linked high-finance riches and the decadence of the lower orders simultaneously. It's what you get when you take the overt ethnic stereotyping out of the early-twentieth-century notion of the International Jew foisting rampaging, jazz-inflamed Negroes on poor white Christians down on the farm.
Soledad O'Brien questions Romney's statement and he testily replies (addressing her as "Soledad" in the pointed way that Gingrich addressed "Juan"?):
Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. 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.
I think the challenge right now -- 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 is on middle-income Americans. My campaign -- 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 is 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 who've been most badly hurt during the Obama years.
See? He keeps repeating it. It's a rehearsed line. It's a talking point he wants to take into the campaign. He wants to divide and conquer; he wants middle-class people who've had the rug pulled out from under them in this recession to feel that their interests are in opposition to the interests of "the very poor." He wants them to think that President Obama is excessively concerned with "the very poor" at their expense.
Will this work? I don't know. But it's no slip-up. It's no gaffe.
(And yes, he did say "Democrat Party." So when are we going to start calling it the "Republic Party" at every possible opportunity? I'm ready.)
UPDATE: Well, maybe it's not a brand-new talking point -- Bill Scher notes that Romney said the same thing in October:
In October, I reported here that Romney made this exact same argument while stumping in Iowa: "In our country, the people who need the help most are not the poor, who have a safety net, not the rich, who are doing just fine, but the middle class."
Video at the link. (Hat tip: Pam Spaulding.)