Mitt Romney Backpedals After 'Hang' Obama Gaffe

His unofficial campaign debut gets off to a rocky start

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The spotlight was on Mitt Romney yesterday at the Republican gathering in Manchester, New Hampshire, purportedly a summit on jobs and the economy, but also a showcase of five Republican presidential hopefuls, including Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Romney. Many interpreted the summit as Romney's unofficial debut as a 2012 candidate.

And, it seems that Romney got off to a difficult start. The Atlantic writes:

Romney was off in just about every facet of his performance... [He] remains an exceptionally unnatural public speaker... His tone and affect are like that of an adult doing a dramatic reading of a pirate story to a wide-eyed three year old.

But the low point no doubt was when Romney made a Jimmy Carter-Barack Obama comparison: "Reagan came up with this great thing about the ‘misery index’ and he hung that around Jimmy Carter’s neck and that had a lot to do with Jimmy Carter losing," and then added, "Well, we’re going to have to hang the ‘Obama Misery Index’ around his neck." But then he realized mid-sentence the trouble with making a metaphor about hanging a black man. The Boston Globe reports:

Romney almost immediately caught himself, with the English major declaring "metaphorically" speaking, but the mix of nervous laughter with applause indicated at least some in the audience realized its potency.

Video of the comment is below. Romney spokesman Andrea Saul emailed CNN regarding questions over his comment, "It is not what the governor meant and that was very clear in what he actually said. It's a ridiculous exaggeration of his actual comments."

Nonetheless, even putting that unfortunate incident aside, Romney still had his critics. Steve Beren for Washington Monthly writes that, "the whole argument was a mess."

Romney mentions Reagan, hoping Republicans will forget he didn't like Reagan in the '80s and wasn't even a Republican at the time. Romney mentions "higher taxation," which is absurd given how much Obama has cut taxes for everyone.

Beren's verdict: "The guy isn't ready for primetime."

There were some positive reviews for Romney's performance on more substantive issues, however. The Boston Globe writes:

[Romney's] answer to the inevitable question about his Massachusetts health plan was about the best that could be expected: A smiling reference to all the controversy about it, a sincere defense of its goals, an avowal to never attempt such a thing on the federal level, ending with a pledge to grant every state a waiver from Obamacare on his first day in office. And when asked about high gasoline costs he offered a mini-lesson on how to tame the futures markets and bring down prices, suggesting there's some substance beneath his somewhat oily presentation.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.