Mitt Romney finally revealed specifics from his policy agenda Sunday — but the media wasn't his intended audience. The GOP presidential hopeful was giving what he thought were private remarks to big-bucks conservative donors at a backyard event, but his voice carried out to a sidewalk where journalists could overhear him. According to MSNBC, Romney floated the idea of shrinking or eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development while restructuring the Department of Education. He also said that he planned to eliminate or limit the second home mortgage interest deduction to offset his proposed income tax cuts. (His wife, Ann, taking the podium, referenced the goodwill the campaign derived from Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's recent attack on her as a stay-at-home mom, calling it an "early birthday present.") Romney recently revealed to the Weekly Standard that he's loath to talk policy specifics on the campaign trail because his ideas may get him in trouble with the general electorate. Does this so-called "hot mic" gaffe affirm the perception that he's not the most honest of candidates?

Romney is alarmingly secretive about policy: Even when speaking "privately," says Steven Benen at MSNBC, Romney won't specify which parts of the government, aside from HUD and Education, he intends to eliminate, saying "I'm not going to go through these one by one." It actually appears he doesn't plan to go through them at all during this entire campaign, revealing just how cagey he is. Apparently, "Americans are supposed to vote for Romney first, then discover what he'd do in office after he wins."
"Romney drops policy hints at closed-door fundraiser"

The revelations actually aren't exciting: These views Romney did unveil are as disappointingly "tepid as his publicly expressed ones," says Ilya Gerner at Indecision, neither particularly surprising nor aggressive. Eliminating the mortgage interest deduction for second homes won't even come close to paying for $5 trillion in rate cuts. His plan to shrink HUD and the Department of Education is a cop out; why not eliminate the agencies altogether? This proves that Romney is "just as boring in private as in public."
"Mitt Romney just as boring in private as in public"

But Ann Romney's statement was pretty bad: It's unbelievable that, after all the "foot-stomping and pearl-clutching and salt-smelling and fundraising about poor Ann being attacked," the Romney campaign is basically admitting that it merely milked the controversy for sympathy votes, says Kaili Joy Gray at Daily Kos. It was all a "cynical act" to woo female voters. This gaffe should shoot to the top of the "growing list of evidence" proving that Romney is the "weakest presidential candidate since pretty much ever."
"Ann Romney welcomes 'attacks' as long as she can milk them for all they're worth"

This could actually benefit Romney: "Romney should be grateful his voice carried over the backyard wall," says Michael Scherer at TIME. It may force him to finally come out with policy specifics, which will only help him in the election. Romney's silence to date regarding his agenda is confusing, particularly with the Obama camp attacking him for it. Offering real policy proposals and proving that they are workable is the only way that Mitt will "win a competence contest against Obama." Leaks like this help him because they show he's actually thought about the policy implications of enacting the broad proposals "he talks about in cartoon-like-language on the campaign stump."
"Why Mitt Romney should get out from behind the backyard fence"