(The Root) — Sometimes a presidential candidate's behavior is so outlandish during a campaign that you have to assume the person doesn't really want to become president, but instead is secretly hoping that his wacky behavior will be found out so he'll have an excuse to throw in the towel and find something less demanding and demeaning to do than run for office. Think John Edwards, fathering a secret love child. That's something plenty of men may do, but not when they are seeking the highest office in the land. Unless, of course, perhaps they secretly don't want the office in the first place but feel pressured by those around them to stay in the race.
Well, it now appears that Edwards can welcome a new member to the "I'm running for president but really don't want the hassle" club: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. For a man who, according to former classmates and colleagues, is an incredibly smart leader, he doesn't act like it. He has run one of the most gaffe-ridden campaigns in American history, but when the 2012 election is over, one gaffe will likely loom large above all others: A video secretly recorded at a May 2012 Romney fundraiser captures the Republican nominee saying what he really thinks of the 47 percent (aka, those who are not members of the 1 percent — as he is and as many of the donors at his fundraiser were — but who, even worse, have the audacity to support President Obama).
All right, there are 47 percent who are with [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. And they will vote for this president no matter what … These are people who pay no income tax. My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
It's been said that a gaffe in American politics is when someone accidentally tells the truth. In Romney's case, what he said may not reflect the actual truth, but it may reflect what many have long believed to be his own version of the truth pertaining to poor, middle-class and working-class Americans — in other words, anyone not born with his privilege. He now says his point was "not elegantly stated." That's an understatement.
It's not that political watchers are particularly shocked that Romney feels this way. What's shocking is that someone running for president was dumb enough to say this out loud and to get captured on camera saying it before a crowd — whether or not the video was recorded secretly. Even more shocking is that the same person who would make such a misstep thinks he is so much smarter than the rest of us that he should be leading us.
Some will draw comparisons to President Obama's infamous "guns and religion" flub, also secretly recorded at a private fundraiser, which created a media firestorm but didn't ultimately cost candidate Obama the election.
Well, if candidate Obama had made a major foreign policy misstep the week before the video's release and let Clint Eastwood talk to a chair as the opening act for his convention speech a few weeks beforehand, it probably would have.
There's also one other major difference between the two candidates' gaffes: The one four years ago was delivered by a man who actually wanted to become president and who ran a campaign that was demonstrative of that. I'm not so sure the same can be said of Romney this year.
Keli Goff is The Root's political correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.
Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.