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The Globe and Mail

Mitt Romney ought to take a cue from the Cookie Monster

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses supporters during a campaign stop in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

Jae C. Hong / AP/Jae C. Hong / AP

From crate-gate to ' cookie-gate,' Mitt Romney is struggling with the warmth quotient.

The latest blunder came as the Republican presidential nominee joined some Pennsylvania residents around a picnic table on April 17 to chat about economic woes, including falling home values and rising gasoline prices.

On the table sat some lemonade, chips and cookies.

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"I'm not sure about these cookies," he said, scanning a plate of "five dozen lady locks, thumbprints and other delicacies made by a beloved local bakery," Bloomberg reported.

"They don't look like you made them," he said to a woman grimacing next to him, as several ladies giggled nervously around the table.

Mr. Romney didn't follow.

"Did you make those cookies?" he continued, berating the woman. "You didn't, did you? No. No. They came from the local 7-Eleven bakery or wherever."

Locals were the ones who dubbed the slight "cookie-gate," but Bethel Bakery owner John Walsh quickly capitalized on the gaffe.

"When I heard it, I thought, oh my goodness. This guy has no idea how beloved this institution is that provided these cookies," Mr. Walsh told ABC. "We wanted him to be welcomed with the best in the burgh, and he had no idea."

The bakery is offering a "CookieGate Special" – six free cookies with the purchase of a dozen. The local office of the Obama campaign promptly jumped on the bandwagon, ordering 60 cookies. The Democrats also launched a new hashtag – #cookiegate – to retweet the faux pas, as well as their own YouTube mashup featuring (who else) the Cookie Monster.

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New York Magazine's Grub Street blog piled it on too: "He'll come to your outdoor gathering – probably without even bringing a bottle of wine or a salad to pass, or even one of those little brie wheels they sell at the corner bodega – and insult your town's famous cookies just because they're not 'homemade.'"

The magazine's John Heilemann appeared on the Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell with some tips for Mr. Romney and his rivals: "The fundamental rule of politics about food is that everything you eat is 'Wonderful!" It's 'great!' It's 'fabulous!' It's 'delightful!'" ("He obviously doesn't know anything about baked goods, because that was the good stuff," the host chimed in.)

YouTube spinoffs have been remarkably slow in coming, but one does spell out clearly the subtext of the awkward exchange: "Cheap food sucks. I grace you with my presence. The least you can do is give me homemade cookies."

What was your worst slip-up as a lunch, dinner or picnic guest?

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