Romney’s “very poor” moment: Stepping on the message

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Cross-posted by Benjamin Kirby, editor of the Spencerian.

It’s almost like Mitt Romney doesn’t know how to win.  Coming off a pretty good-sized victory here in Florida just yesterday, Mitt had this to say today:

“I’m not concerned with the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

To be clear, this wasn’t a gaffe: this is Romney Campaign strategy.

“But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans,” Romney continued. “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.”

And, from Romney’s point of view, for good reason.  Poor people don’t like him.

[As an aside, have you ever read a more stilted, awkward response?  Can you just see him replaying in his mind the conversation he had with some campaign strategist: “Governor Romney, you can choose where to focus.  The rich, middle-income Americans, or the very poor.”  Unbelievable.]

From the Washington Post report:

Exit polls from Florida, where Romney won 46.4 percent of the vote in the GOP primary Tuesday, show that he had markedly less support among voters who are having a hard time making ends meet. The former Massachusetts governor was essentially tied with Gingrich among Florida voters who see their families as “falling behind financially.”

This is actually a step or two beyond “I like being able to fire people,” because they guy really doubled down on it.  If we’re honest about the firing people comment, there was a context to it.  It was a poor choice of words, horrible phrasing, and really bone-headed.  But this is something else.  This is a conscious decision to excludepoor people as a key part of a campaign strategy.

The campaign frame developing here on the GOP side is interesting.  You have super-rich Mitt Romney talking about “middle-income Americans” (about whom he knows nothing) while at the same time demonizing poor people.  And if you think the demonizing of poor people is not on the GOP agenda going forward, just ask Newt Gingrich, who called President Obama the “food stamp President,” or even the current Congress which just seems bound and determined to waste as much of America’s time as possible.

And speaking of President Obama, that’s the other interesting piece for me: this idea the Republicans keep flogging that Obama is an “elite”… and “elites” are bad, even though the very good people at Dictionary.com tell me that “elite” means:

1. the choice or best of anything considered collectively, as of a group or class of persons.

2.  persons of the highest class.

3.  a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group: the power elite of a major political party.

…and for the life of me, I A.) can’t figure out what in the hell is wrong with that, and B.) don’t see anyting untrue in at least those three with respect to President Obama.

So the GOP is really trying out a dual frame, here: poor people suck and so do “elites” like Obama.  I have to tell you, as a communications person, I find this to be a very limiting strategy.

Obama is bad.  He’s uppity.  He’s elite.  Poor people are bad.  They use their food stamps at strip clubs.  

The translation of this to any kind of coherent electoral strategy has completely eluded me.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.