I suspect the most damaging impact of Mitt Romney’s 47% percent tape will not be how it directly changes voters’ opinion of him, but that it means another valuable week has been lost for his campaign. With less than 50 days until the election the political news for about a week has been dominated by two unforced errors by Romney.
First there was Romney’s crass September 11th statement about the attack on the embassy in Libya. It become the focus of the political news cycle for several days, receive significant criticism from a broad section of the media. Almost as soon as that story died down though the focus of the political world turned to the tape leaked by Mother Jones. For the last several days the news has been about Romney trying to defend his remarks and a broad section of the writers, including many conservative ones, criticism them.
This was roughly a week not spend focused on problems with President Obama’s record. This was a week not spend talking about Romney past accomplishments or popular proposals. The conversation for a week has been about Romney trying to defend his remarks and pundits pointing out that they are factually inaccurate and/or simply bad politics.
Effectively, this was an entire week wasted for a campaign when they have no time to waste. There are only seven weeks until the election and even fewer until early voting starts.
Barring uncovering a big scandal it is hard for a campaign to significantly move voters with any one action but every day is a battle. The best a campaign can do is each day try to slightly move the needle in your direct by reaching out to some voters and modestly improving your candidate’s overall image. Days spend on defensive or talking about gaffes that make the candidate look bad are days the campaign is not advancing.
This appears to be part of a real pattern for the Romney campaign. They seem incapable of setting the narrative. Instead they have almost constantly been on the defense, forced to talk about distractions they would rather avoid. A campaign currently behind in the polls simply can afford to have what little time remains being wasted.