WASHINGTON – The presidential race has so far not always been marked by its high-minded debate, guided more by tweaks on Twitter than detailed policy prescriptions for fixing the economy.
On Tuesday, enter Kevin Youkilis into the political discussion.
It started on Monday night, when President Obama started a fundraiser in Boston by delivering a lighthearted jab to Red Sox fans for sending the popular infielder to his hometown Chicago White Sox.
“I just want to say—thank you for Youkilis,” Obama said, triggering some boos—and “Youk” chants—at Symphony Hall.
“I should not have brought up baseball,” the president conceded. “I understand. My mistake. Obviously, you’ve got to know your crowd.”
Mitt Romney, who is spotted at games with his son – and season ticket holder – Tagg, quickly pounced on the comment. On Tuesday morning, Romney’s campaign started a daily email to reporters by drawing attention to the incident.
“Last night in Boston, President Obama went to the heart of Red Sox nation and committed an error by taunting fans over the Kevin Youkilis trade to the Chicago White Sox,” wrote spokeswoman Andrea Saul, a bit tongue in cheek. “And he was booed for it…at his own event!”
“The Red Sox have suffered many setbacks over the years – the Babe Ruth trade, the ball through Buckner’s legs, the Bucky Dent home run,” Saul went on. “Maybe the president should have congratulated the team for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007. Instead, he chose to mock them for trading away one of its favorite players at a time when the team is struggling.”
“Score that an error,” she added.
She then tried to segue into a critique on some of Obama’s proposals, adding, “whether it’s bad baseball cracks or bad policy, President Obama is striking out.”
By midmorning, cable talk shows were mentioning the incident and there was a debate on Twitter over whether the Boston crowd was predominantely booing Obama, or merely chanting “Yooouuukkk.”
White House press secretary (and Red Sox fan) Jay Carney was asked about the incident on Air Force One. He said people “were saying ‘Yoooook’ and not ‘Booo’ for God’s sake,” and added that it demonstrated Obama’s unwillingness to pander.
“I don’t think the American people appreciate it when politicians suddenly pretend they are fans of other teams to curry favor,” Carney said, noting that Obama declined to wear a Red Sox cap in 2007 because he is a White Sox fan. “The president is very serious about that, he will not do that. He will not cross that line.”
Yet Romney himself is not completely error-free in his record with Red Sox Nation. During a debate in 2007, the former Massachusetts governor (and self-described “true-suffering fan”), botched the well-known drought between World Series victories (hint: 86 years).
“Eighty-seven long years,” Romney said. “We waited 87 long years. And true suffering Red Sox fans that my family and I are, we could not have been more happy than to see the Red Sox win the World Series, except by being able to beat the Yankees when they were ahead three games to none.”
Politifact, which reviews political statements, obviously ruled the claim false.