It’s a tie for the weekend’s booby prize for mistaken PR strategy.
Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both win for their knee jerk reaction to Obama’s statement surrounding the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, the black 17-year-old from Florida. Obama caught the headlines on Friday with his comment “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon… When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”
Santorum and Gingrich immediately went into attack mode. Gingrich asked rhetorically if the President was suggesting that “if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn’t look like him?” while Santorum chimed in, saying the President shouldn’t use this case to “drive a wedge in America”.
Romney was the classiest of the Republican contenders. He echoed the President’s comments about this being a matter for all Americans and added the public needed to be reassured that justice is “carried out with impartiality and integrity.”
The PR Verdict: “D” for Santorum and Gingrich. Both came across as not listening and making cheap political capital. In so doing, both ceded the higher moral ground to Romney.
Given that Obama had avoided mentioning the words “black” or “race” it was always going to be a PR risk to claim the President was milking the Martin case for political gain. Romney’s team understood the PR advantage in not being in constant attack mode. They might want to thank Santorum and Gingrich for helping to inadvertently elevate Romney to a more presidential and thoughtful standing.
What’s your PR Verdict on the Republican candidates response to Obama’s comments on Trayvon Martin?