His Own Worst Enemy

If Mitt Romney has a big problem in the Republican primary, it’s himself. The former Massachusetts governor can’t seem to keep his foot out of his mouth, and has—through misstatements—portrayed himself as a cold and heartless shill for the 1 percent. Here are some of the greatest hits:

When heard in their full context, most of these aren’t as bad as they sound. But, as John Kerry learned in 2004, voters aren’t that attuned to the context of politicians, especially when they say things that leave a bad first impression.

On CNN last night, Romney deepened this problem with another tone deaf comment which, fairly or not, will reinforce the image that he is a defender of the wealthy:

I’m not concerned with 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 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” [Emphasis mine]

It’s clear that Romney isn’t dismissing the “very poor” as much as he’s expressing confidence in the existing safety net for those mired in poverty. If that net isn’t strong enough, Romney notes, he’ll fix it as president. But the phrasing is incredibly awkward, and when voters hear this, they’ll latch on to the first sentence to the exclusion of the rest. And of course, Democrats are certain to use this in attack ads throughout the general election. Though, given Romney’s relationship with truth in advertising, that isn’t as unfair as it sounds.

It should be said that, if we go by his proposed policies, Romney doesn’t actually care much about the poor. The former Massachusetts governor has consistently voiced support for the draconian budget cuts of Rep. Paul Ryan, which would cripple the safety net and deprive low-income Americans of valuable assistance. What’s more, he plans deep cuts to taxes on capital gains geared toward the rich, who are most likely to collect income on investment. Like many on the right, his preferred economic policies would redistribute income to the wealthy, and destroy our fiscal future with a massive long-term deficit.