Mitt Walks Back “47 Percent” and the Debate Mystery Solved, Mebbe
A day after his unanimous decision—if not TKO—over President Obama in Wednesday’s first of three debates, Mitt Romney completely withdrew his “47 percent” riff of earlier this year in a Fox News Channel interview with Sean Hannity.
Will he get away with it, and bury the biggest gaffe of his campaign? The timing’s certainly great—there’s no place like the winner’s locker room to ‘fess up to a blunder.
Pundits of the left and even the right have been harping on Barack’s choice–or failure–not to rub Mitt’s nose in it, an offhand remark captured on a cellphone last May, writing off the votes of the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax, that his agenda of tightening entitlements and lightening tax burdens would drive them to the Obama column.
But as they say in the trial lawyer business, never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. The New York Times opens an interesting speculation:
While [campaign guru David] Axelrod said Mr. Obama simply never found an opportunity, another aide offered another suggestion*: To have done so would have given Mr. Romney an opening to undo the political damage of the remarks with a certain, planned answer before a huge television audience of 67.2 million.
That a day after Romney’s big win he launches his “47 percent apology” formulated leads me to suspect he already had it ready to deploy at the debate Wednesday night.
“Clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you are going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case I said something that’s just completely wrong,” Romney told Sean Hannity on Fox News. “And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent. And that has been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent. When I become president it will be about helping the 100 percent.”
That Romney was well-prepared for the debate is understatement. And it looks quite likely that he was prepared to try to turn his biggest gaffe into a gentlemanly admission of a mistake and a bridge to an even bigger constituency, and in front of 65 million people, not just the already-convinced on the right who watch Hannity, a lousy 2 million or so.
Strangely enough, what was called Obama’s biggest mistake of the night even by his supporters might have denied Romney what we might now be calling his best moment of all, turning his biggest campaign liability into an asset. Broken bones and bridges are often stronger where they’ve been repaired.
Regardless, now that Romney has unveiled his new “100 percent of the American people” counterpunch, any attempt to exploit his “47 percent” disaster would either be ineffective or ungracious, methinks. Romney can give the answer he’s already prepared for the first debate, with the added force that he’s already sorta-apologized to the American people for it, and not under the gun of a debate.
*It occurs to Mrs. TVD that the Obamans may have got a tip from inside the Romneyan camp, and this was no mere blunder or oversight. She is wiser than me about these things, and the math works perfectly.