The Gaffe Effect of 2008

Washington Matters

The Gaffe Effect of 2008

There are many lessons to be learned from Barack Obama's gaffe in describing the frustrations of blue collar workers.  Let's hope the candidates don't draw the wrong one.

This is not the first slipup by a candidate and it won't be the last. Just recently we had Hillary Clinton describing a landing in

Sponsored Content


The phenomenon is not new (remember Sen. George Allen's infamous Macaca comment in 2006), but the effect keeps growing larger, in part because recording technology and Web sites like YouTube keep mistakes alive forever. Campaigns often go into bunker mode when it happens, working up immediate clarifications and carefully crafted regrets if necessary.


The result, I fear, will be extra-extra-careful speaking in public and private events by candidates and staff. Fear of making a verbal slip and having it snowball into several days of news analysis in the media and blogosphere will put some type of brake on candidates thinking out loud before crowds. They'll remind themselves every morning to stick to the message of the day, even in QAs with voters and in coffee shop stops.


We'd all be better off, though, if they don't entirely quit being candid and unrehearsed on the spot, even if sometimes they later wish they hadn't said what they said or how they said it and unaware there was a microphone or cell camera near them.