New York's Cocoon
Obama’s gaffe probably hurt his campaign coverage over the weekend, but it may have had the ironic effect of helping him drive home his case.
Why does Romney want to keep this debate going? It’s a way to keep the media talking about Obama’s ungainly line. And it also positions Romney on the side of cutting government bureaucrats, which is popular in the abstract.
But there are also ways in which the debate harms Romney. Seizing on Obama’s gaffe, Romney committed a counter-gaffe, in which he declared of Obama, “He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.” The flub here is one of excessive honesty. Americans may hate the idea of government in the abstract, but they like it in the specific. The Republican strategy is always to keep its discussion of government programs general — with a handful of exceptions, like foreign aid and programs that help the poor — while Democrats try to make it as specific as possible. Firing police officers, firefighters, and teachers is way less popular than firing government bureaucrats.
Obama has taken great care to turn the question into one of those specific job categories, and Romney has inadvertently helped him.
Also, and perhaps more important, the entire controversy has fixed the attention of the news media on the very point that Obama was trying to make: There are many fewer government employees now than there were when Obama took office. Romney is trying to attack Obama for changing his mind on the merits of this fact, but in so doing he is helping to drive home the very existence of this fact.