Mitt Romney’s unfortunate word choice

Mike Krumboltz
The Upshot

It's been a challenging week for Mitt Romney and it's only Wednesday.

The Republican presidential candidate had a tough exchange with a gay Vietnam veteran in New Hampshire on Monday. On Tuesday, he was lampooned for knowing how to speak French. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is ahead of him in the national polls, after a strong showing in Saturday's Yahoo/ABC News debate in Iowa.

And now, political researchers have reported that a phrase Romney recently used -- "Keep America American"-- was used by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. It was also used in the 1800s by the Know Nothing Party, an anti-Catholic group.

Of course, it's fair to assume that Romney's campaign didn't know that the white supremacist group had used the expression  as a kind of motto against African Americans, gays and Jews. Nevertheless, the unfortunate coincidence has led to a slew of blog and search activity on Yahoo!.

We first spotted the news at the Huffington Post. Americablog, a liberal news blog, first pointed out the identical statements. Americablog has embedded a video of Romney using the phrase and also points to an article from the Los Angeles Times in which Romney is quoted using the slogan.

The campaign ad is embedded below--though it's hard to tell if Romney is saying "Keep America America" or "Keep America American."

In the LA Times piece, Romney compared himself to President Obama and said, "We have on one side a president who wants to transform America into a European-style nation, and you have on other hand someone like myself that wants to turn around America and keep America American"--or perhaps, "Keep America America"--with the principles that made us the greatest nation on earth."

In all likelihood, this kerfuffle will all blow over soon. But it does serve as a reminder to all politicians: Choose your sound bites carefully.