by Jerry Weissman
During his campaign to become the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney has taken many lumps for being rich. His opponents and the media have exploited the contrast between his personal wealth and the economic struggles of much of the electorate. Mr. Romney hasn’t helped his cause by making several awkward statements about the subject. Yesterday, the day before today’s critical Michigan and Arizona primaries, the ABC News OTUS site ran a twelve-page post titled, “Is Mitt Romney out of touch?” which included the following assertions:
- He likes firing people
- He “isn’t concerned about the very poor”
- The $370,000 he earned in speaking fees is “not very much”
- He offered to bet Rick Perry ten thousand dollars during their debate
The latest gaffe came last Friday in a speech Mr. Romney gave in Detroit, during which he said, “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck,’’ but then went on to say, “Ann drives, a couple of Cadillacs, actually.’’ The statement wound up on the first page of the ABC News post.
On Sunday, however, Mr. Romney reversed gears by turning the gaffe into an asset. During an interview on Fox News, Chris Wallace asked, “Governor, could you understand why some voters could be put off by those things?”
(video clip requires Microsoft Windows Media Player)
Mr. Romney replied:
I can't be perfect, I just am who I am and I can tell you this with regards to the cars that was talked about last September and people ask us what vehicles we own. We have a car in California; we have a car in Boston. And so that's the way it is. If people think that there is something wrong for being successful in America, they should vote for the other guy. I have been successful.
Mr. Romney didn’t equivocate or evade as so many politicians so often do. In the parlance of the middle America he is trying to win over, he “told it like it is;” in the parlance of effective communication, he was being open and direct. But being even more effective, he added one more sentence to his answer:
And I want to use that success to help the American people.
That single sentence represents both a benefit to the electorate and a declaration of his qualifications to provide that benefit. This is a technique called Topspin; taken from the tennis term for a power stroke, it adds power to answers. You can read more about Topspin in my book, In the Line of Fire: How to Handle Tough Questions—and can get a FREE Kindle copy now on Amazon.