I try not to prognosticate too much, since my rough account of political punditry is that we have almost no idea why anyone ever votes the way they do, nor how any event will play out, nor how any ‘intangible’ factor ever impacts anything. Still, I’m thinking the RNC’s attempt to focus attention on Biden’s gaffes with a “gaffe clock” will be pathetic and ineffectual. For one thing, it’s entirely meta–the whole idea isn’t to highlight particular gaffes, but the idea that what he generally does is make gaffes. I have a hard time seeing people who aren’t interested in the horserace aspects of politics caring about something that abstract. Moreover, most of the politicians who’ve been hurt by a reputation for gaffes have been hurt because they were perceived as lightweights. But Biden is manifestly no Quayle–the agreed opinion is that he’s a smart guy with a weird habit of saying dumb things, not a man who’s just out of his league.
If Biden’s gaffes get the ticket in trouble, it won’t be because of his reputation. It will be because he says something that itself offends or disappoints people. Biden seriously damaged his primary campaign with his “clean and articulate” comment, not because it highlighted his gaffes, but because it made him sound like a racist.
Gosh, even thinking about that comment makes me scared for what can happen in the next three months.
Side Note: Matthew Yglesias certainly highlights the important fact which is that journalists love to write about gaffes. So maybe the gaffe clock will be important by extension.