Serious Misfire by Romney Staffer

Mitt Romney’s Press Secretary Andrea Saul was hit with a biblical flood of conservative outrage yesterday, after she mentioned that the steelworker’s wife in the Priorities USA ad would have had health insurance under Romneycare if she had been living in Massachusetts. Calls for Saul’s firing (and eulogies for the Romney campaign) commenced immediately.

In an interview with Fox News Channel on Wednesday, Andrea Saul invoked Massachusetts’s expansion of health coverage as a defense to a harsh new ad funded by a super PAC supporting President Obama. In the spot, a former steelworker whose plant was closed by Bain Capital blames Romney, who co-founded the firm, for his family’s loss of health insurance and his wife’s subsequent death from cancer.

Saul’s comment was accurate; the worker would have been insured under Romney’s plan. And as both TNR’s Noam Scheiber and TPM’s Benjy Sarlin have noted, her remark may not have been as off-message as it initially sounded.

That being said, this was still a serious misfire. The Obama campaign and Priorities USA are getting shredded in the media for the Joe Soptic ad. Conservatives are leaping to Romney’s defense. Why trample all that by reminding the right of the one issue that made them reluctant to support Romney in the first place?

Saul’s comment was also irrelevant. She didn’t need to debate the ad on its “merits.” Just point out what virtually every fact-checker has noted — that the story in the ad crumbles under scrutiny. Joe Soptic was laid off years after Romney left Bain; his wife continued to have health insurance through her own job; and his wife passed away five years after Soptic lost his job. There was absolutely no reason to inject Romneycare into the debate.