Which Presidential Candidate is Out of Touch Now? A Handy Scorecard

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 8 2012 5:18 PM

Keeping Score in the Battle of Who's In Touch Less

US President Barack Obama at a June 8 press conference in which he proved he's out of touch, according to Mitt Romney.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP/Getty Images

If, as my colleague John Dickerson wrote in April, the 2012 presidential campaign is a contest to see which candidate can tag the other as more “out of touch” with real Americans, the Romney camp has presumably regained some ground this week.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Within hours of Obama’s remark Friday morning that “the private sector is doing fine,” the impressively proficient Republican National Committee had cut a new ad called "Doing Fine" to show just how out of touch the president must be. Romney himself piled on, predicting that the comment would “go down in history” as an “extraordinary miscalculation.”


Will the eighth graders of the year 2060 read in their e-textbooks about Obama’s questionable assessment of the state of the macroeconomy on this fine June day in 2012? That’s up to the historians of the future, of course. I would only humbly submit the following observation: If they’re searching retrospectively for a “tipping point” that proved, finally and definitively, that the losing candidate was out of touch with the American public, they will have plenty of options, no matter who wins. Here are just a few. Consider this, if you like, a handy appendix to Dickerson’s story, which is well worth reading if you haven’t already.

Tipping point: Jan. 20, 2009
Person who’s out of touch:
He moved into the White House.
What it proves:
"Years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believers telling you what a great job you are doing, well, that might be enough to make you a little out of touch." –Mitt Romney
Candidate’s retort:
"When we travel, we got to travel through Secret Service, and Air Force One, that's not my choice."

Tipping point: Jan. 9, 2012
Person who’s out of touch:
He likes being able to fire people.
What it proves:
“It may be that he’s slightly out of touch with the economic reality playing out in America right now.” –John Huntsman
Candidate’s retort:
“Things can always be taken out of context.”

Tipping point: Feb. 24, 2012
Person who’s out of touch:
His wife Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.
What it proves:
“Though they may be made in Michigan, owning two of the pricey cars… will only reinforce the image that he’s out of touch with working-class Americans.”—Politico’s Reid Epstein
Candidate’s retort:
“If people think that there is something wrong for being successful, they should vote for the other guy.”

Tipping point: Feb. 26, 2012
Person who’s out of touch
: Romney
: He has friends who own NASCAR teams.
What it proves
: “This is just the latest example of how out of touch Mitt Romney is from the average American experience.” –DNC press secretary Melanie Roussell
Candidate’s retort
: "I can't be perfect. I just am who I am."

Tipping point: June 8, 2012
Person who’s out of touch
: Obama
: He thinks the private sector is doing fine.
What it proves
: “Is he really that out of touch? I think he’s defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people. Has there ever been an American president who is so far from reality…?” –Mitt Romney
Candidate’s retort
: “It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That's why I had a press conference."

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.