Romney's big weakness: Speaking French?

A Democratic political group releases a video showing Mitt Romney speaking French, in a "cynical" bid to turn off conservative voters

Mitt Romney
(Image credit: RD/ Kabik /Retna Ltd./Corbis)

The video: A liberal Super PAC is trying to torpedo Mitt Romney's bid for the Republican presidential nomination by reminding voters that the former Massachusetts governor — gasp! — speaks French. The group, American LP, has released a video showing Romney thanking volunteers en Francais for helping stage the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, which he ran (see the American LP ad below). As Romney speaks, mischievous subtitles mistranslate his words into English, quoting some of Romney's past progressive views on abortion, health-insurance mandates, and global warming. "The mere fact that we can show him speaking French fluently, we believe, is going to irritate primary voters," says American LP founder T.J. Walker. As Slate puts it, Conservatives "aren't exactly fans of the French."

The reaction: "The ad is brilliant in an evil genius sort of way," says Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy. It's a bit of a cheap shot, but "given Romney's habit of referring to any Democratic policies he doesn't agree with as 'European,' he may have been asking for it." Come on, this kind of "cynical ad" has no place in a campaign to pick the leader of the free world, says Matthew Balan at News Busters. Pretending that foreign language skills are "political poison" for the GOP is just a way for the media to make conservatives look silly. Maybe, but it's fair "payback for the 2004 mockery of John Kerry" for his Francophone ways, says Andrew Rosenthal at The New York Times. Still, it could backfire, says Sarah B. Boxer at CBS News. Talking about Romney's "French connection" could help him in early-voting New Hampshire, where a quarter of the population is of French or French-Canadian descent. Check out the ad for yourself:

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