The latest blip in Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign involves his mixing up Ralph Reed and Gary Bauer as recounted in Bruce Reed’s blog on Slate. Here’s the relevant passage from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“Romney gestured to Ralph Reed and said, ‘Why it’s good to see Gary Bauer here.’ Romney then caught himself. “Oh, I’m a little mixed up here,” he said. But Romney still couldn’t place Reed’s face—and had to move on.”
Interestingly, this is not the first time this has happened. Romney had trouble keeping political personalities apart at WLVI’s gubernatorial debate hosted by Jon Keller. Back then, he mixed up the Green Party’s candidate, Jill Stein, and the Libertarian candidate, Carla Howell. They didn’t look alike but both were outspoken women from parties outside of the mainstream. I wrote it up for The Boston Phoenix:
“Following the debate, I asked Romney whether he indeed knew the differences and could identify each party’s candidate. He didn’t like the question and tried to take a page out of George Bush’s book and evade it by pretending not to understand the question. ‘I’m sorry… I don’t know if I’m going to be able. You want to narrow your question on that. What’s the difference between the Green party and the Libertarian party? There’s a very substantial difference.’
So I humored him: ‘There was a moment of confusion when you seem to call on one and get –,” I said, making everyone, including the television reporters present, all aware of exactly what I was talking about. “Oh, I’m sorry, I called Jill Stein by Carla’s name, allright.’ The parties are ‘actually quite opposite,’ he said.”
This was the nadir of the Romney-Gitell relationship. Romney kept his cool, but his eyes briefly flashed with anger. I was nudging him and generally being a pain.
In the big picture, I think Romney is still over-performing expectations. David Bernstein does a good job of explaining how and why.