***

The Mitt Romney who spoke in Bowling Green, Ohio, on Wednesday wasn’t robotic or stilted. Speaking without a teleprompter, he paced the stage, jabbing at the air with an index finger, shirtsleeves rolled up, surrounded on all sides by an amped-up crowd. There seemed to be a new fire in his belly, an unaccustomed passion. For Romney’s stumbling campaign, an adrenaline injection may have come from the most unexpected precinct: the famously uninspiring candidate himself. …

“What he’s saying,” Romney told the crowd in Bowling Green, “is that if someone has succeeded, if they built something, he’s saying they didn’t really build it — no, it was the government, it was the government that takes responsibility. So for the student in school that works hard to get on the honor roll, that’s not really them — it was their teacher that did that, and the government that paid for it. And if somebody came here across the border legally and brought their family seeking a better life, their success is not due to them — no, no, they didn’t build it; the government gets credit for that. And if a person in their job says, ‘You know what, I’m going to work hard an get more skills, and I got a promotion’ — that promotion, oh by the way, that’s not yours, that’s thanks to government. That’s where this leads.”

It was the vehemence with which Romney delivered these lines that was surprising — a forcefulness usually absent from his bland recitation of a stump speech calculated first and foremost to offend as few people as possible. By (arguably) dissing free enterprise, Obama, it seems, struck at the core of Romney’s being, arousing at long last the passion beneath his buttoned-up exterior.

***

Mitt Romney made an impromptu swing by a Massachusetts body shop Thursday afternoon to again hammer President Obama over the president’s suggestion last week that the success of private enterprises in the United States were dependent on public infrastructure and programs. …

It wasn’t a gaffe. It was instead his ideology,” Romney said. …

“The president does, in fact, believe that people who build enterprises like this really aren’t responsible for it,” Romney said. “But in fact it’s a collective success of the whole society that somehow builds enterprises like this. My view, we have to celebrate people who started enterprises and employ other people.” …

“If you attack success, you’ll continue to see what we’ve seen over these past three and a half years, and that’s less success … I don’t think the president by his comments suggests an understanding of what makes America such a great nation,” Romney said.

***

I think Obama has made the gaffe of the year when he said if you created a business, you didn’t build it. That phrase, ‘you didn’t build it’ should be hung around Obama until the end of his presidency.

I read the totality of the statement and it’s worse if you read it all. Essentially, he has a view that is antithetical to view that the majority of the Americans have, which is that enterprise, initiative of the markets are what drive American wealth and excellence and achievements. Government is parasitic on that and lives off the excess wealth in the form of taxation.

Obama has view at the heart of American excellence and achievement is government. not enterprise. And I think what Romney ought to do is take the headline in today’s lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal, ‘Solyndra versus Staples.’ And he has to have a simple slogan, Romney, which is, ‘Obama and his administration gave you Solyndra, using your money incidentally. I and my colleagues in the free enterprise system gave you Staples with all the jobs and all the wealth and all the accrued wealth it gave to the foundations with the pension and the universities that invested with us in those enterprises.’

***

***

These defining moments take hold most devastatingly when they confirm what a large portion of the electorate already believes. Taken alone, it seems unfair that a single moment, an unguarded remark or a slip of the tongue can carry such weight. They’re often dismissed as “gotcha” moments, but when voters are able to nod and say, “I knew it,” these moments stick and do terrible damage. We have witnessed such a moment.