The Gaffe Effect

Mark Kleiman, reflecting on Mike Huckabee’s apparent belief that Barack Obama grew up in Kenya, says “That even Huckabee fell into this trap in the context of a friendly interview with a right-wing talk jock suggests a serious problem for the Republicans as they attempt to re-take the White House in 2012 or 2016.”

To me, this is mostly a reminder that people overrate this kind of thing. Recall that Barack Obama said affection for Jesus Christ and firearms is a form of false consciousness. It turned out that his self-described spiritual mentor was a black nationalist peddling nutty AIDS conspiracy theories who thinks 9/11 was “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” And Obama not only won, he won easily against a decorated war hero. Then again, the hero in question was so rich and out of touch that he couldn’t even keep track of how many houses he owned! In other words, nobody gets it through a long campaign season without screwing some things up, but either voters don’t care about this stuff or else it offsets. Obama’s re-election potential is almost certainly going to be a function of economic conditions rather than how gaffe-prone the Republican nominee is.