THAT PEDIGREED DOG WON'T HUNT, I'M AFRAID
This is getting a lot of attention, but I don't think it's going to do much harm to Mitt Romney, even though I wish it would:
Mitt Romney recounted some advice from his father, former presidential candiate George Romney, in Sunday's NBC/Facebook debate about running for office: make sure you're set for cash already.
"I happened to see my dad run for governor when he was 54 years old," Romney said. "He had good advice to me. He said never get involved in politics if you have to win election to pay a mortgage. If you find yourself in a position when you can serve, you ought to have a responsibility to do so if you think you can make a difference, and don’t get involved in politics when your kids are still young because it may turn their heads."
Romney later turned the mortgage line on one of his former opponents, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (R-MA), who he ran against unsuccessfully in 1994.
"I was happy that he had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me," Romney said....
Here's why this is supposed to be a problem, in Steve Benen's words:
It's an odd line for a candidate regularly accused of out-of-touch elitism. Only those who already have considerable wealth should "get involved in politics"? Really?
Here's the follow-up question: if there's some blue-collar worker in Ohio, who cares about public service and is thinking about asking his neighbors for their vote, should he or she stand aside and allow some rich person to "get involved in politics" instead?
Yes, but for now, Romney is running to win Republican primaries. That means being "an out-of-touch elitist" helps him. "Let them eat cake" moments are good for him. (Being attacked by liberals for "let them eat cake" moments is even better.)
Yes, but what about the general election?
Sorry -- it's too oblique a soundbite to be used effectively in an attack ad. It would have to be boiled down to this:
never get involved in politics if you have to win election to pay a mortgage.
Try that on someone who's never heard it. Does it instantly sound appalling? I think it just takes too long for the brain to go from this to "He's filthy rich" or "He thinks only independently wealthy people should run for office."
Besides, does obviously wealth really hurt Republicans? The last three times a Republican won (or, in 2000, "won") a presidential election, the Republican was named Bush -- not much more needs to be said about that, right? And John McCain may have lost the 2008 election, but do you remember the multiple houses coming up very much during the fall campaign?
A number of commentators are comparing this Romney moment to the time when he challenged Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet. That's probably an apt comparison because, as you'll note, you probably haven't heard a word about that $10,000 bet since its brief moment of notoriety, until now.
I wish this were a problem for Romney, but I don't see it.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)