On a day in which numbers emerged that showed less people seem to like him than ever before, Mitt Romney is still smiling. On pace to win the Republican nomination for President (and not much else), he set about campaigning for Wisconsin's hearts delegates today.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Romney held a conference call today with Wisconsin primary voters, and related a "humorous" anecdote about his father, George, pulling a Bain Capital and laying off an entire Michigan factory during his run as president of the now-defunct American Motors Corporation.
Behold, the hilarity of workers losing their jobs:
“One of most humorous I think relates to my father. You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors … They had a factory in Michigan, and they had a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” said Romney. “And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign.”
To be fair, that's not the part that Romney seemed to find hilarious. But if there is anything funny about this -- not for Romney, for Democrats -- it's that the punchline was how the closing related to a gaffe in his father's political campaign:
Romney said he recalled a parade in which the school band marching with his father’s campaign only knew the Wisconsin fight song, not the Michigan song.“So every time they would start playing ‘On, Wisconsin, On, Wisconsin,’ my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin,” said Romney, laughing.
It's not enough to say that you enjoy firing people, or that you have a long professional history of doing just that. Romney is using the fact that his dad also did it to patronize voters in Wisconsin, and for the sake of a fairly monotonous story. Slate's Dave Weigel nailed why this is so problematic: "The never-ending thump-thump-thump of 'Romney is rich' stories come off a little cheap. The point, though, is that Romney manages to outdo even Barack Obama when it comes to lacking empathy."
Forget the ridicule, schadenfreude, and yes, the indulgent laughter: that is why Romney's gaffes matter.