Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has written a fascinating analysis of a recent Mitt Romney campaign gaffe.
The gaffe is the one in which Romney allowed himself to be photographed on a candy-apple-red jet ski driven by his beautiful wife during his opulent July 4th vacation.
Given that most of the Americans who Romney hopes will vote for him are struggling to just get by, Henninger points out, this photo is likely to rub some people the wrong way.
And the photo has already apparently “gone viral,” becoming one of those images that threaten to define a whole campaign.
(Henninger, who writes for a conservative publication, likens it to the photo of hapless Presidential candidate Mike Dukakis riding in a tank.)
Here’s the photo:
Meanwhile, a photo of Romney looking schlumpy in a beach chair surrounded by kids and grand-kids–the ideal campaign photo, one almost everyone can relate to–went largely ignored.
Henninger describes the gaffe as “a little like the kid who celebrates the Fourth of July by lighting and dropping a cherry bomb at his own feet.”
And then he raises an important question:
Was the gaffe the result of Romney getting some crappy campaign advice–illustrating that some of his advisors need upgrading?
Or, more worrisome, was the gaffe because Romney is really so “out of touch” and over-confident that he concluded his advisors were just giving him bad advice?
A question of some urgency hangs over these two photos. We may assume the family beach photo was the one intended to run through the July Fourth news cycle. If so, did anyone in the Romney campaign warn the candidate that the beach photo would evaporate the moment the couple on that jet ski entered a lake teeming with press-corps piranhas? Two possible conclusions flow from the answer.
If no one warned Mr. Romney of the Kerryesque lobster roast his ride would guarantee, then calls for a campaign upgrade are plausible.
But what if the campaign staff did warn Mr. Romney but were waved off by the candidate himself, confident in his own judgment? If that happened, then neither the second coming of Lee Atwater nor James Carville will save this candidate from blowing himself up eventually with another bad call, such as a Dukakis-like photo of the candidate riding in an Abrams tank in front of the press.
What do you think? (I actually had not realized that the jet-ski photo had become so symbolic. Perhaps because if I had had to guess what Romney might be doing on his vacation, this choice wouldn’t have surprised me. And perhaps because I didn’t really associate jet skis with the 0.01%–mega-yachts, yes, jet skis, no. And perhaps because, if I owned a jet ski, I’d probably want to ride it, symbolism be damned. But the vacation photos were still fascinating. You can check out a lot more of them here.)