By and large, it's been a good couple of days for Democrats. They think, and some prominent Republicans agree, that Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan gives them a great advantage. But, perhaps unable to contain their euphoria, the party's standard bearers have gotten a little slap-happy and careless on the trail. Here are three howlers from the last 24 hours or so.
1. The Offender: Joe Biden
The Gaffe: "[Romney]'s gonna let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street! [In comic downhome accent] They're gonna put y'all back in chains."
Say What? No one seems to know what this meant. At first glance, it appears to be a reference to antebellum slavery, but as Dan Amira notes, it's not like he was speaking to the NAACP, so it's unclear why that's a reference he'd use. It looks more like he just went overboard with a metaphor, in classic Biden fashion. At least he didn't add "literally," for once.
Importance: Low. Democrats have been saying for, uh, decades that Republicans are toadies to corporations and finance. Outrage over Biden's bizarre articulation of the idea is mostly manufactured.
Honorable Mention: At the same event, which was in Danville, Va., Biden told the crowd that they could help Obama win North Carolina again. Danville is just over the border in the Old Dominion, but still: oops.
2. The Offender: Debbie Wasserman Schultz
The Gaffe: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, was forced to admit — by Wolf Blitzer, of all people! — that changes to Medicare proposed by Ryan would not actually affect people over 55.
Say What? It's a top Democratic talking point that Ryan wants to "end Medicare as we know it." To a great extent that's true, but regardless of whether you think that's an improvement or a setback, those changes don't come into effect until 2023. After trying for the better part of four minutes to suggest that those who are senior citizens today would lose their coverage, Wasserman Schultz finally admitted that wasn't true.
Importance: High. Obama and his allies are hoping to scare the elderly, a key voting bloc, away from the Republican ticket because of the proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare. They see that as key to winning in senior-heavy states like Florida. But while middle-aged Americans do stand to lose a lot from the changes — they would likely not benefit from the same social safety net their parents are enjoying — that's a different point. Saying otherwise is as disingenuous as the Romney campaign blasting cuts to Medicare in Obamacare while also backing the same cuts in the Ryan budget. Expect this to be a central question in the entitlement debate throughout the election.
3. The Offender: Barack Obama
The Gaffe: "That's what [Romney] said about wind power, 'You can't drive a car with a windmill on it.' I don't know if he's actually tried that — I know he's had other things on his car."
Say What? Yes, the president of the United States made a joke about Romney putting his Irish setter Seamus on top of a car some 30 years ago. No, we can't believe it either. It's not really a gaffe; it's just disheartening that Obama is needlessly breathing new life into a silly non-issue.
Importance: Infinitesimally low, and yet still very annoying.