From Bugaboo to Booboo

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused President Obama of spending too much time at Harvard, even though Romney attended the university longer and sent his three sons there.Calling someone elitist and out of touch because they attended Harvard isn't a new strategy. However, it is a novel argument when made by a candidate who spent even more time at Harvard, sent three children there, and donated thousands of dollars to the university.

And his Boston campaign headquarters is just across the river from Harvard.

In politics, you have to know how to deliver a zinger. But it's usually a good idea to taser your opponent, not yourself.

Basking in the trifecta of victories in this week's GOP presidential primaries, frontrunner Mitt Romney turned his guns on President Obama, saying he "spent too much time at Harvard," leaving him out of touch with mainstream America.

Obama did spend three years at Harvard, earning his law degree and working on the Harvard Law Review. It turns out Romney attended Harvard for four years, earning a law degree and a masters in business administration.

In addition to the math problem, Obama made it to Harvard from fairly humble circumstances, while Romney got there from a family whose dad was president of American Motors and governor of Michigan. 

The "silver spoon" characterization fits Romney more than Obama, which left political pundits scratching their heads on Romney's latest ricochet bullet.

"The problem with Romney's Harvard attack isn't that it makes him look foolish," says Greg Sargent of The Washington Post. "Rather, the real problem is that it serves as a reminder of the contrast between the two men's story arcs."

Sargent acknowledges the potential political benefit of alleging "Obama as an elitist," but asks, "Is Romney the right messenger for it?"

In politics, as in any form of marketing, the messenger matters, often as much as the message itself. This is a case in which Romney's communications adviser should have stepped in to remind the candidate there are far better ways to make his point than making Harvard a bugaboo. The result was a Harvard booboo.