Election 2012: Say It Ain’t So, Joe—Dems Tiptoe Around Biden’s ‘Chains’


If you haven’t noticed, the 2012 presidential race is heating up.

With the selection of Paul Ryan as the Republican nominee for vice president, both parties are all set and locked in as there are less than 90 days to go until the election.

At this point, every move, speech, ad, press release and interview will be analyzed to the point of nausea with critics galore weighing in and each side waiting for the other to slip up.

To be sure, the communications teams for both tickets are prepared in the event something does go wrong as any verbal slipup could conceivably cost them votes in November.

So when Vice President Joe Biden was on the campaign trail in Danville, Va., on Aug. 14 and told a group of voters—a large number of them being African-American—that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanted to put them "back in chains" by deregulating Wall Street, the cringe could be felt from the small Southern town all the way back to Capitol Hill.

For context, the vice president was attempting to explain how the Republican ticket wanted to "unchain Wall Street" by getting rid of regulations President Obama signed into law two years ago.

But who looks at context in political races?

As a result of the 24/7 news, social media cycle, in seemingly no time, Biden’s comments were trending on Twitter, on the news and leading live reports across the country, putting the spotlight directly on him and the Obama campaign. The “chains” reference is synonymous with slavery and many felt Biden’s statement invoked racial overtones and was an inappropriate analogy, particularly in that setting.

In what appeared to be a brewing crisis, the Obama communications team chose not to release an official statement regarding the remarks, despite the negative attention it was receiving. President Obama, however, defended his VP, known for his tendency to drift away from the game plan from time to time, telling People magazine that “he was only saying "you, consumers, the American people, will be a lot worse off if we repeal these [Wall Street reform] laws as the other side is suggesting." 

To contain this most recent messaging misstep in the campaign, the Obama team made the call that the situation wasn't dire enough to shift into damage control mode. The strategy in sum: "If we don't treat it like a crisis then it is not a crisis." That's generally not a recommended strategy in crisis management, but when it comes to Biden, it's probably the best course of action.

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson


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