The Whopper and the Gaffer

by Henry Payne

Detroit - Joe Biden told a whopper in Detroit on Wednesday: “A half trillion (in tax cuts) will go to 120,000 families. . . . The average middle class family will see their taxes go up $2000 a year.”

Two days later, in Commerce Township just north of Detroit, Mitt Romney told a gaffer: “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this is the place where we were born and raised.”

Can you guess which one got headline news play?

Romney’s inappropriate joke stole the spotlight from his Big Mo Show as the candidate stormed into his home state to overflow crowds — riding the rock star status of his running mate, Paul Ryan, and a wave of new polls showing that the GOP ticket is threatening the Obama-Biden lead in the Auto Bailout state that Obama should have locked up. If Obama loses Michigan, he is toast. Over 9,000 people descended on rural Metro Detroit’s Long Family Orchard Farm and Cider Mill “hours before the event and crowded local Commerce Township streets clamoring for an opportunity to see the pair,” reported the Detroit News (the crowd was so massive — double organizers’ estimates — that Ann Romney was visibly overwhelmed, choking up at the show of support from her home state).

All this momentum wasted by an off-the-cuff detour from Mitt’s script.

The son of Michigan’s first Mormon governor, Romney shrugged off the birther joke as a stab at humor — but it was clearly a mistake, a lesson in the dangers of spontaneous, folksy humor when spontaneous, folksy humor ain’t your shtick. It was a blow to a campaign that had seized the high ground from Obama’s gutter-politics.

Indeed, the rest of Romney’s speech — and Ryan’s stemwinder before it — was a breath of fresh air after Biden’s divisive, truth-challenged, class warfare speech just 48 hours before.

Where Biden blamed Dubya Bush for the nation’s economic stasis, Ryan said “we will not blame others, we will take responsibility.” Where Biden attacked Romney personally for not releasing his tax forms and holding “bank accounts in the Cayman Islands,” Romney attacked Obama policies that have brought 8 percent unemployment, trillion-dollar deficits, and “four years of small business finding it hard to hire people.”

And where Biden gave no road map for the next four years, Romney talked about “five things we’re going to do:”

1. “Take advantage of our energy resources.”
2. “Fix our schools putting parents and kids first and unions behind.”
3. “Trade that’s good for America.”
4. “A balanced budget. . . and get it to zero.”
5. “I’m going to champion small business” and “replace Obama care with something that gets costs under control.”

That sounds like the Hope and Change Americans have been waiting for for four long years. And if Romney sticks to the script, he’ll be rewarded for it.

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