A ‘limited understanding of the economy’

This exchange, from Mitt Romney’s chat with the editorial board of the Washington Examiner, seems like the sort of thing that might come back to haunt the former governor.

TIM CARNEY: The European Union might be on the verge of an economic meltdown and the U.S. is already getting involved at least indirectly. They opened the Fed window. The IMF, which we heavily fund, is sending money their way. Do you support this Fed and these IMF measures and, if this were still going on when you were inaugurated, what steps — what US aid — would you be willing to provide to Europe?

ROMNEY: Not much, because Europe is capable of solving Europe’s problems. I actually think that — I mean, I’m not an economist by training, but what limited understanding of the economy I have suggests it’s very difficult to cobble together Greece, Ireland, Italy and Germany with the same monetary policy and highly disparate fiscal policies. I don’t know how they hold it together. [emphasis added]

In fairness, I didn’t hear the audio* or see the video of the comments. It’s possible this was said in jest (though elsewhere, the transcript points to laughter, and this is not one of those instances).

Or perhaps he was serious. The larger point is, if Romney is already trying to downplay his familiarity with economic policy, in a campaign in which he points to alleged economic expertise as his main qualification for national office, it’s a quote he might regret making.

Remember, in the last campaign, Republican nominee John McCain conceded, “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.” The senator later admitted, “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.”

And now we have Romney saying he has a “limited understanding of the economy”? Given his campaign message and voters’ concerns, that may prove to be a quote that’s tough to live down.

* Update: The estimable Ari Berman listened to the audio of the comments and said “there was no laughter when he said it and didn’t seem like he was joking.”