Mitt Romney Missed a Golden Opportunity in London

Unlike Olympic athletes, politicians are allowed to make mistakes.

Unlike Olympic athletes, politicians are allowed to make mistakes.

Most people are far more forgiving than the media vultures circling around any perceived "gaffe" on the campaign trail.

The voters in America's swing states are unlikely to remember or frankly care much about Mitt Romney's undiplomatic response when he was asked about London's preparations for the Olympics.

What will cost him some electoral college votes in the likes of Virginia, Colorado and Ohio that will decide this close election is the perception that he's a snake oil salesman who will say or do anything to get elected.

That's why his grovelling efforts next day to roll back on his comments and his claim that his judgement of London's preparations had been transformed overnight was a huge strategic error.

That just reinforced every negative about Romney. Once again your average voter would roll their eyes and see a man who seems unable to stick to his guns.

The American public are crying out for candidates who are not simply trotting out messages tested in focus groups, endlessly repeating the same anodyne talking points.

Yes gaffes can be dangerous when they feed a narrative about a candidate. But I don't think huge swathes of American voters seriously believe Romney would be a liability on the world stage.

While no politician wants to be labelled as gaffe-prone, there are moments when a little straight talking can be refreshing for voters who want to elect a human being and not an automaton.

Romney is also trying to present himself as a businessman and not a standard politician. A little less polish and some straight shooting might do him some good.

Let's face it what he said may have been undiplomatic but it was an accurate assessment.

There have been huge concerns about security and in any Olympics the success depends on whether the public embrace the Games, something that's always unpredictable.

A campaign needs to be agile enough to seize opportunities and to embrace the unexpected.

When his advisers huddled after the interview surely someone must have piped up to suggest an alternative course of action. One in which Romney could reinforce his image as a political outsider and reveal his human side.

What Romney should have done is shown some humility and some humour. He could easily have said: "You know what I'm a businessman, I'm a management consultant, I know what I'm talking about when it comes to the Olympics and I answered the question honestly. I'm not a politician and I think people want a president who will answer questions directly."

He could also have admitted that perhaps it wasn't the most diplomatic thing to say and used some self deprecating humour to say that he hopes not to be shipped off to the Tower of London, but that he hopes the British people will forgive him for doubting them.

This might have taken the edge off the bitterness that followed from his hosts and set the tone for the rest of the foreign trip. Not a trip where the media was desperate for more gaffes to reinforce that story narrative, but one where a confident Romney was not afraid to speak candidly about the big issues facing US foreign policy.

I think that's what Ronny Reagan might have done and it's what George W Bush would have done. Both were lambasted in the media for so-called gaffes on foreign trips yet they turned this to their advantage by using it to reveal their authentic charm to voters at home.

Rather than play up his positives in this way, the decision by his campaign to have him wriggle out of his comments just reemphasised his existing negative as a candidate without much of a core.

Romney is not as charismatic as his Democratic opponent Mr. Obama, he may not be as likeable and he certainly doesn't have his oratory skills.

That doesn't mean he can't be at the top of the presidential rostrum come November.

A little more self deprecating humour about his own stiffness and a little more of the straight-shooting that we saw in that Olympics interview would go a long way to winning him the respect and even admiration of many more of the voters he needs to win over if he's to triumph in this contest.

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