BOSTON - As Mitt Romney transitions from one-term governor to presidential candidate, he has been ticking through a presidential checklist, sometimes with perilous results.
Where he lacked foreign policy experience, his staff arranged one-day visits to Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Check, check, check.
Where there were questions about Second Amendment issues, he enrolled as a "lifetime" member of the National Rifle Association.
But this month, Romney scratched when he tried to wade through the cauldron of Cuban-American politics during a speech to South Florida Republicans.
"Hugo Chavez has tried to steal an inspiring phrase - "Patria o muerte, venceremos,'" Romney said, referring to the Venezuelan president and persistent U.S. critic. "It does not belong to him. It belongs to a free Cuba."
In truth, the phrase does not belong to free Cubans. It has been the trademark speechmaking sign-off of their most despised opponent, Fidel Castro. And unlike Romney, Castro would switch to English to declare, "Fatherland or death, we shall overcome."
The mistake accentuated Romney's newness to the scene and the freshness of some of his positions.
Unlike some of his better-known Democratic and Republican rivals, Romney, 60, lacks extensive national and international political experience. That lack of depth and familiarity increases the chance of missteps, as well as outright contradictions with past policy views.
His Chavez comment to a March 9 Lincoln Day dinner in Miami-Dade County, as well as his mispronunciation of the names of several prominent Cuban-Americans, set off a murmur within the crowd.
Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said the speech was well received despite any mistakes. "I think what's new is there is a higher level of scrutiny now because he's a presidential candidate," Madden said. "But as far as the governor's ideas, the substance of his proposals and his blueprint for America, this is the first time everybody is hearing it, and we are confident that the substance of his policies is what's going to bring more and more people to his campaign."