Is there anyone paying even passing attention to politics who hasn’t seen the Obama clip five times at this point — which, by the way, is less than 96 hours after he said it? Answer: no.(via Roberts)
You know, I think it's fair to say that I pay somewhat more than passing attention to politics.
I saw the press conference live. Tweeted about the gaffe immediately, too.
I haven't seen it a single time since.
So I'm going to do a little self-Nielson to see how that could possibly happen. Apologies if it's long. Feel free to skip the next three paragraphs if you're not all that interested.
Friday night, if I recall correctly, I watched an old taped episode of "Vice" (which, by the way, I think I'm giving up on; I just don't enjoy cringe comedy), and then fortunately for me the Giants were playing the Rangers, so I had the ballgame on TV on the (sort of) local Fox sports outlet. Neither my DVR'd Vice nor the Giants made any reference to Barack Obama's gaffe.
Saturday I listened to the radio in the morning, then went to the local track for the Belmont simulcast. Made my bet, came home, flipped the TV back and forth between the Belmont coverage and the Giants/Rangers game, probably with a bit of MLB network coverage thrown in. Once again, no one played the clip, or even made any mention of it. Saturday night I mostly watched the Kings/Devils game on NBC, once again flipping over to MLB network during the breaks; I understand there was also a fight, and an important NBA game, which I'm sure a lot of folks watched. After the game, if I recall correctly, I watched a taped episode of "Girls." Yet again, no clips of Obama or Romney at all. I suspect that one or more NY pols were at the Belmont, perhaps even the Big Dog, but if they were on it was while I was watching Vogelsong's gem.
Sunday? I'm sure the clip was on at least some of the Sunday shows, but like normal Americans I don't watch the Sunday shows. Instead, as usual I followed the much more sensible path of listening to one of two Sunday Beatles shows I always listen to while reading the newspaper (which, granted, did mention the Obama gaffe, although my old-fashioned print newspaper had no video clips enclosed). Then errands, pickup basketball, and home to more Giants/Rangers. After dinner and some reading, we watched a Buffy episode (season six; we've been watching with our eldest, who is a big fan, but it's taking us forever to get through season six for what I should think are obvious reasons), and then we watched the big Mad Men season finale. At some point in there, also watched about ten minutes of the Tonys. Now, I know that not all that many people actually watch Mad Men, but we did tape that show with Starbuck which I believe does get good ratings. Perhaps it'll turn out, whenever I get around to watching it, that it's just chock full of clips of the Obama gaffe. I sort of don't think so.
For what it's worth, I don't recall watching any clips of anything on the computer or any other devices this weekend, and obviously that's not all that normal. I did, I believe, receive copies of several clips over email, but I rarely watch them, and certainly didn't over the weekend.
Hey, I don't pretend that my political TV watching habits are normal -- after all, hardly anyone uses C-SPAN as a go-to destination during ads. But I'm actually very confident that most normal people not only have not seen the clip of Barack Obama's press conference, but haven't heard word one about it.
And those who do know about it? They're the real attentive citizens, but we also know that the more people pay attention to politics, the more they're likely to be strong partisans.
Of course, if Team Romney winds up using the clip in ads for months, yes, everyone will see it. Will it change minds? Fairly unlikely. The whole campaign, everything from who the candidates are to the debates to the ads to GOTV to platforms, only moves the final results a few percentage points at best; it seems highly, highly, unlikely that one particular sound bit could do very much at all.
Cillizza compares "doing fine" to gaffes by John Kerry and John McCain, but both of those candidates probably did a bit better than the fundamentals might have predicted; there's no way to know, but it seems highly unlikely to me that the specific quotes made any difference at all -- and quite plausible, actually, that the Big Themes that the quotes were used to illustrated didn't actually make any difference, either. It's more likely that people who would have voted against Kerry or McCain anyway found the themes that that the other candidate was attacking on to be useful explanations for a decision already made.
But that last bit, about the ultimate importance of gaffes, is at least a fairly complicated question that's difficult to nail down empirically. The question of what regular people watched this weekend? That's easy -- and the answer is surely not the Obama gaffe clip.