Remember the infamous Green Screen speech that John McCain delivered in 2008? And how widely panned it was as a political disaster and evidence of campaign incompetence? Mitt Romney's speech in Detroit today was significantly worse.
For reasons that defy comprehension, the Romney campaign decided to unveil a new economic agenda -- the one he announced just last month apparently wasn't very good -- at Ford Field, a football stadium with 65,000 seats.
The problem, of course, is that he only brought along 1,200 friends to watch. Here's a clip from C-SPAN, showing not only the completely empty seats in the stands, but also the empty seats set up on the ground by the campaign itself.
Everything about this was a mess. In the speech itself, Romney, reading from a teleprompter, not only inexplicably repeated the line about the appropriate height of Michigan trees, but in yet another tone-deaf comment about his wealthy, the Republican added that his wife "drives a couple of Cadillacs." This won't help perceptions of Romney being an out-of-touch, patrician elitist.
In the larger context, for Romney to travel to Detroit to talk about the economy only invited his critics to remind everyone that Romney was prepared to "let Detroit go bankrupt" just three years ago. MoveOn.org, for example, released a tough new ad on the issue today, while UAW rallied to protest Romney at his underwhelming event. Steven Rattner, who led the Obama administration's auto task force in 2009, also marked the occasion with an op-ed explaining once again how very wrong the former governor was about rescuing the industry.
As for the crowd, 1,200 people isn't necessarily an awful number -- if the campaign was hosting an event at a local college or theater. But for Romney go to his purported home state and host an event in an empty football stadium looked pretty awful. Given that Barack Obama could draw a crowd literally 10 times bigger at this point four years ago in Boise, Idaho, also reinforces the perception that Romney's candidacy isn't generating any kind of excitement.
Reports of the Romney campaign's vaunted, professional operation appear to have been greatly exaggerated.