More trouble for Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney's campaign is in trouble. His off the cuff comments to a private gathering of very rich people have been very damaging, to the extent some Republicans are privately saying that fifty days out from polling, the election campaign is over. That is premature, but there's no doubt Romney now has to steady his operation and quickly get it back on track.
The US media is concentrating on his comments dismissing 47 per cent of the electorate, or Obama supporters, as freeloaders.
"That 47 per cent consists of people who do not make enough money to be required to pay federal income tax...who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
It is a revealing quote. It suggests that if elected, then Mitt Romney would not be a president for all Americans and would devote little time "to worry about those people." Given he thought he was making the comments away from cameras or reporters or people who couldn't afford the 50 thousand dollar entrance fee that suggests there was a candour in words he would never dream of uttering in public.
His words will continue to resonate for days, and if the Obama campaign has anything to do with it, until election day.
But perhaps more significant are the comments that the Republican presidential candidate made about Palestine and the Middle East.
Mitt Romney supports a two state solution; that is an independent Palestine existing alongside the state of Israel. Not only is this US government policy, it is also Israeli government policy. During a trip to Jerusalem in July, the Republican Presidential candidate told Haaretz newspaper: "I believe in a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state. I respect Israel's right to remain a Jewish state".
Yet in private, Mitt Romney says if he's in the White House he would do nothing to try to reach a peace settlement in the Middle East, and that a Palestinian state is unfeasible.
He told the private Florida gathering "I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, "There's just no way." And so what you do is you say, "You move things along the best way you can." You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognise that this is going to remain an unsolved problem".
This was not gotcha journalism. This wasn't the equivalent of asking Sarah Palin which daily newspapers she read and wincing as she failed to name even one. This was a series of answers to questions taken by Mitt Romney from people paying a lot of money to be in his company and presumably get their picture taken with afterwards.
And it is those words on Israel that goes to the very heart of Mitt Romney's credibility. Does he believe what he said in public, in interviews and in Israel? Or his position more the one that was shared with the people funding his campaign?
If he can't be credible he can't be President. If he holds one view in public and another in the Oval office, how can people believe what he says?
There is the possibility that Mitt Romney was simply tailoring his message to his audience, taking a more right wing position that he truly holds. Yet that would also say important things about his character.
His campaign isn't over. But he made a mistake during the Republican convention by not laying out clear policies and forgetting to mention US troops still fighting and dying in Afghanistan. He compounded his error by attacking the White House over Middle East protests when senior voices in his party were calling for calm and unity. And he has fallen behind the President in polls in key battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida.
No - Mitt Romney's campaign isn't over – but it's hard to claim it's not in a downward spiral. And if he can't manage a Presidential campaign, it won't just be the 47 per cent who'll question if he can run the country.
Follow Alan Fisher on Twitter: @AlanFisher