When I first heard Obama say that “the private sector is doing fine” I immediately imagined champagne corks popping off the walls in Romney’s Boston campaign headquarters.
There was no doubt from the beginning that Obama’s statement was going to be a game changing gaffe on par with the two other Hall of Fame gaffes committed by the losers of the last two presidential campaigns, Senator John McCain in 2008 and Senator John Kerry in 2004.
John McCain said in mid-September 2008 as the economic tsunami had just hit Wall Street, “ I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong. “
The Obama campaign responded bluntly with this mantra, “How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn’t understand it’s broken?”
Fortunately for then Senator Obama, McCain’s remark was made in mid- September at the height of the election campaign when everyone was paying attention. McCain’s statement was then easily used and re-used by Team Obama to define McCain as the guy who was clueless about economic issues.
McCain’s remark although still a Hall of Fame entrant, is not on the same level with The Gaffe of 2004, the one that helped define an entire presidential campaign for eight months.
This grand daddy of gaffes was committed in March of 2004 when funding for the Iraq war was a front and center issue.
Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry was criticized for voting against a supplemental war appropriation that would have provided our troops with the arms and supplies they needed.
He then said, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
Kerry’s statement cemented an on-going Bush campaign narrative that Kerry was a flip-flopper on a variety of issues both foreign and domestic.
However, Kerry made that now infamous statement in March of 2004; so how did the Bush campaign keep it fresh through November, 2004?
That is a question which feeds into the larger narrative about how the Romney campaign will turn Obama’s “the private sector is doing fine” gaffe into the gift that keeps on giving from June until November without it getting stale.
To satisfy my curiosity I asked Mark McKinnon, the chief media strategist for the Bush ’04 campaign.
McKinnon’s reply was, “I think in one way or another we used Kerry’s line, “I almost voted for it…” almost every single day of the campaign until the election.”
So that’s the reason why we forever associate John Kerry’s 2004 losing presidential bid with that statement. It was hammered into our heads every day from March until November. It became John Kerry and with McKinnon’s artful use of it, “one way or another,” the line never seemed to get old.
Fortunately for the Romney campaign, Obama’s recent zinger is even simpler and easy to remember than McCain’s “fundamentals of our economy are strong” and shorter than Kerry’s confused vote statement.
As successfully proven by the 2004 Bush campaign’s eight months use of Kerry’s gaffe — Team Romney with only five months left until Election Day, should be even better positioned to replay, repackage and rebrand Obama’s statement “in one way or another almost every single day of the campaign until the election”….. without fear of driving voters up a wall.
Then perhaps on November 6th, a majority of independent voters in key swing states will say “I actually did vote for Obama in 2008 before I voted against him in 2012.”