Going off-the-cuff, Romney does himself few favors

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 28 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney may need a censor. For himself.

In the last few weeks in Nevada, the man who owns several homes told the state hit tough by the housing crisis: "Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom."

At one point in Iowa, earlier this year, the former venture capitalist uttered, "Corporations are people," with the country in the midst of a debate over Wall Street vs. Main Street. At an event in economically suffering Florida, the retiree — who is a multimillionaire many times over — told out-of-work voters, "I'm also unemployed."

Over the past year, the Republican presidential candidate has amassed a collection of off-the-cuff comments that expose his vulnerabilities and, taken together, cast him as out-of-touch with Americans who face staggering unemployment, widespread foreclosures and a dire outlook on the economy.

So far, the foot-in-mouth remarks haven't seemed to affect his standing in the nomination race.

Romney has run a far more cautious and disciplined campaign than his losing bid of four years ago. He's kept the focus on his core message: He's the strongest candidate able to beat President Barack Obama on the biggest issue of the campaign, the economy. He still enjoys leading positions in public opinion polls in early primary states and across the nation. Few, if any, of the other Republicans in the race have turned his remarks against him.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney's chief rival with the money to prove it, is all but certain to try. Perry has already started suggesting that Romney lives a life of privilege while he comes from humble roots. In an interview Friday with CNN, another GOP candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, painted Romney as "a perfectly lubricated weather vane on the important issues of the day."

And Romney's eyebrow-raising comments are tailor-made for critical TV ads.

Look no further than the Democratic Party and Obama's advisers for proof of that.

Each time Romney says something that makes even his closest aides grimace, Democrats quickly put together a Web video highlighting the remark — a preview of certain lines of attack come the general election should the former Massachusetts governor win the nomination.

"Mitt Romney's message to Arizona? You're on your own," says a new ad by the Democratic National Committee that jumps on Romney's foreclosure remarks.

Romney's team publicly dismisses their boss's occasional loose lips, dismissing them as inconsequential to voters focused on an unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent.

"It's a long campaign and at the end of the day people are going to judge Gov. Romney and his ability to take on President Obama over jobs and the economy. And certainly there will be a lot of back and forth as the campaign progresses," said Russ Schriefer, a Romney strategist.

"This election will be decided on big issues because the issues are so big and so important," Schriefer said. "And not on a gaffe or a mistake or a moment, any particularly moment. It's more about the big moments and who voters see and being able to turn the economy around."

It usually takes more than one gaffe or one mistake to undo a campaign. And other candidates have made their own potentially problematic comments.

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