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SANTA FE — A week seldom passes that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesnít get hit by the media for making another gaffe. But he has company. President Barack Obama makes his share too.
Recently, President Obama may have made his biggest gaffe of all. In an effort to convince the wealthy to carry their share of the tax load or maybe even a bit more, as with George Buffett, he seemed to begin straying off message.
Obama said, “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” He wasn’t quite in trouble at that point. Everyone had a great teacher or supportive parents or friends or business associates. There’s no harm in acknowledging them.
But then the president stepped all the way in the hole. “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
He said it and he can never walk that one back far enough. The president, who many Americans already thought is anti-business, has just uttered words that never will be forgotten.
Republicans didn’t wait to see if the media might pick it up and go with it. This was too valuable not to begin exploiting immediately ñ and forever.
Had Obama been speaking to a class at Harvard or the University of Chicago, students would have taken notes and on the next test would have fed them back in the context Professor Obama intended.
But this is the big league where the ball seldom ever comes down the center of the plate. Sure, we know the president was talking about the great American free enterprise system and all the roads and bridges we have built together but that’s not the way it will go down in history. Republicans are sure to have “You didn’t build that” parties for years.
Those words couldn’t have been written for him. If they were, the writer already has been fired. And uttering them like a college professor didn’t help either.
You’d be surprised how many politicians have Ph.Ds. They are smart enough to not sound like it. Most don’t readily make their amount of education known. Most legislators don’t especially care to listen to expert witnesses with a professorial sound. It has been a problem throughout his presidency.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson becomes a better speaker all the time. He hasn’t had the opportunity to make as many gaffes as the leading presidential candidates because he isn’t getting on stage that often.
But he seems to be getting included in a few more polls and that’s what he needs to make the national showing necessary to get into the debates. Johnson won’t win the presidency but he will give voice to issues such as ending wars on other countries and the war on drugs.
Gary Johnson also can do something for his new party, the Libertarians. If he can carry five percent of the presidential vote in New Mexico this coming November, he will qualify the Libertarian Party as a major party in the 2014 elections.
Major party status is beneficial to a party because it means the state will run its primary election, just as it does for Republicans and Democrats. Minor parties are not treated especially well in the law because they are such a wild card for the major parties when it comes to tilting an election one way or the other.
If Johnson does get the Libertarian Party the five percent it needs, one other criterion must be met before it becomes a major party. It must increase its voter registration up to one-third of one percent. It is now at two-tenths of one percent.
Such a feat should be possible, especially if it is started immediately while Gary Johnson is in the news. The New Mexico Green Party hit the mark back when Roberto Mondragon polled 11 percent of the vote in the 1994 gubernatorial election.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist based in Santa Fe.