Mitt Romney seems to be haunted with the plague of gaffes of his own and his aides’.

Time magazine’s (August 4) article titled “Worse gaffe than Etch-A-Sketch” reported another gaffe that Romney’s aide, Eric Fehmstrom, made and the author Mark Halperin says it could derail the campaign and "keep Boston off message all week".

I think I know the idiom, “keep sb/stg off,” but I’m not clear with the specific meaning of “keep Boston off message all week” in the article.

Does this mean (1) Fehmstrom’s gaffe keeps Romney's right and intended message from reaching Boston voters, or (2) it keeps Boston voters absorbed in the gaffe all week (thus making them forget about Romney’s campaign message), or (3) otherwise?

What is the exact meaning of ‘keep Boston off message’?

FYI. The episode goes like this:

When Fehmstrom was at his desk at an ad agency working on a press release for a new menu of Popeye’s’ Fried Chicken, he received a phone call from Romney asking for help on his gubernatorial campaign; he said: “I said to myself, there has to be more interesting things in life than spicy fried chicken, I hung up the phone, walked down the hall and quit.”

  • 1
    Mitt Romney's headquarters are in Boston. This is an example of metonymy. Aug 6, 2012 at 1:09
  • @Peter Shor. So ‘Keep Boston off’ means Fehmstrom’s gaffe kept Romney campaign headquarters from delivering new message for all week? Aug 6, 2012 at 1:36
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    It parses as 'keep (X off-message)', that is, 'off message' is an adjective modifying X, and 'keep' is like 'maintain' (or continuous).
    – Mitch
    Aug 6, 2012 at 1:54

1 Answer 1


"Off message" means:

not adhering to or reflecting the official line of a political party, government, or other organization

Boston is used here to mean Romney headquarters. It is the object of the sentence.

"Keep Boston off-message" means "Prevent the Romney campaign from making its own points". Presumably, this news has the potential to make the Romney campaign defend itself on this off-message point for a while to explain an irrelevant or deleterious narrative, instead of staying on-message and telling its own narrative.

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