Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has not been having a good week. His image struggles are dragging him down in the polls, his fighting talk on immigration looks as if it will cost him a key demographic, and he dissed a man’s baking skills.
At a picnic stop on Tuesday in Bethel Park, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Romney added another gem to what is becoming an increasingly gaffe-encrusted campaign when, in a single brief squirt of verbal diarrhea, he managed to insult both a mom-and-pop store and a multinational food retailer. “I’m not sure about these cookies,” he remarked to the gentleman who had just placed a plate of baked goods in front of him. “They don’t look like you made them. No, no — they came from the local 7-Eleven, bakery or whatever.”
Turns out they had been made by local business owner and Romney supporter John Walsh, whose Bethel Bakery is apparently beloved as one of the best eateries in town. Oops.
Turns out also that 7-Eleven does have bakeries that supply fresh baked goods to its stores nationwide. Double oops.
While this story stands out in that it almost beggars belief that a seasoned politician like Mitt Romney could fluff one of the cardinal rules of campaigning (i.e. the town or state you’re in is the friendliest and most delightful place you’ve ever visited; your host’s family is beautiful, wholesome and flawlessly hospitable; any food offered to you is the most delectable ambrosia that has ever passed your lips), it’s also remarkable for another reason. It’s a classic encapsulation of the resilience and ingenuity of American entrepreneurship.
Once he’d got over the shock and disbelief of what he’d just heard (and it did take him a while), Walsh immediately got to thinking how he could turn Romney’s foot-in-mouth moment to his advantage. The next morning, Bethel Bakery began offering a “Cookiegate Special”, offering customers half a dozen cookies free with every dozen purchased. Walsh and his employees were soon dealing with a deluge of orders, some from as far away as Georgia — and one from the Pennsylvania office of the Obama campaign.