Mitt Romney seems to struggle when it comes to filling those awkward conversational lulls with small talk, often blurting out phrases that help Democrats portray him as Not Like Us.
The latest: Romney disrespected cookies from the beloved Bethel Bakery in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.
On Tuesday, the all-but-sure Republican nominee was meeting with some regular-folks voters at a picnic table in Bethel Park, to talk about taxes and the economy. It was not exactly a natural moment, with reporters and camera crews staring at them all like visitors to the monkey cage. Romney tried to loosen people up with a joke.
“I’m not sure about these cookies,” Romney said. “They don’t look like you made them,” he said, turning to one of the women at the table. “Did you make those cookies? You didn’t, did you? No. No. They came from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever.”
Oops. Some people were offended – or at least faux offended; it’s hard to tell what is real when it comes to campaign contretemps -- at what became known, inevitably, as Cookie Gate. Yinzers rushed to defend the reputation of Bethel Bakery, and the owners capitalized on the publicity with a special offer, six free cookies with the purchase of a dozen.
Of course the mistake was not a baring of Mitt Romney’s soul, and it’s not going to decide Pennsylvania or the election in the fall, but there has been a lot of buzz over the past couple of days.
Amy Worden of the Inquirer’s Harrisburg bureau pointed out, though, that President Obama deftly showed how it’s supposed to be done when he name-checked a local restaurant Wednesday in Elyria, Ohio.
Obama began, as he does at every stop, by saying he was happy to be in town. “Last time I was here I had an outstanding burger at Smitty's,” he said. The official White House transcript added: "(Laughter)."