Within 12 hours of notching the second biggest political victory of his life, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney really stepped in it when he informed CNN's Soledad O'Brien that he was "not concerned about the very poor."
Are Romney's comments defensible? Of course they are. As the National Review's Jonah Goldberg notes, Romney was attempting to crib from former President Bill Clinton's playbook and he failed miserably at it.
If Romney wins the GOP nomination, which appears likely, could the Obama propaganda machine use this comment along with several others to create a montage of negative ads that portray Romney as a an out-of-touch rich, white guy? You bet, and I suspect it will to the fullest extent of its creative powers since the president is unable to run for re-election on the merits of his record.
I can easily see Axelrod and company using the O'Brien interview as a sequel to Mike Dukakis and the tank or John Kerry and his windsurfer. I might wish to go back in time, like Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap, and prevent Romney from doing the interview in an effort to fix the situation, but my fear is that the better comparison is to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and that Romney will likely offer similar elitist gaffes again and again.
Having monitored Romney extremely closely, both in 2008 and in the present, the former Massachusetts governor still seems incapable of grasping one of the cardinal rules on politics: What you say is generally less important than how you say it and the language you convey it in (or in Romney's case, how it is received by others, particularly independents).
Will Romney recover from his most recent rich, stiff guy gaffe? Yes. Notice I didn't say "white," because trust me, Donald Trump, who is comfortable in his skin, probably could have artfully talked his way out of this one, especially when O'Brien gave Romney the chance to further explain his comments.
Some on the right will argue that Romney will never get this stuff down, and will continue to pine for the likes of former Gov. Jeb Bush until the cows come home. I, on the other hand, remain hopeful but realize that time is not on Romney's side. It is clear that he still needs more time to marinate in the GOP primary, but it's unclear if the process will ever get this candidate to a point where he can convince voters that he can understand their pain even if he can't "feel" it himself.
My advice to Romney: Stop kneecapping yourself and stick to the script. The mainstream media and Team Obama are well aware of your weaknesses and will continue to exploit them to their collective advantage. You may never publicly be comfortable in your skin, but please remember, as the potential GOP standard-bearer, you are fighting with one arm behind your back, so please be mindful of how others receive your words.