Sunday, January 08, 2012


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.)


Arturo Ui said...

Steve, I know you are a genuine progressive and are being sincere, but lately it feels like almost every post is designed to convince your readers there is no hope against Mitt Romney. I understand the value of validating one's predictions and all, but really: do the potential weaknesses of every possible hit on Romney need to highlighted here so consistently? We get it, you think Romney will beat Obama. No need to belabor the point unless it's one you actually are rooting for. Which we all know you aren't.

c u n d gulag said...

Because nothing says "America, the home of the free" like a political aristocracy.

In all honesty, in today's politics with all of that outside money, the opposite may be more true.

At least for Conservatives.
You can be poor as a churchmouse, but if you look like you support the policies of the powers that be, and look like you might have a chance, they'll find money to fund you. Probably use you as an example of how their policies appeal to the 'just plain folks.'

It's if you're Liberal or Progressive, you'd better have some money to compensate for that.

And how ironic could that end up being?
Democrats would have to be wealthy to run a successful campaign, while you could have poorer Republicans, willing to sell their souls for campaign cash, funded by the big money boys and girls.

I'm not saying it will happen. I'm just thinking out loud.
But you can't say that it couldn't.

Steve M. said...

Arturo, I hope you also complain at every blog where the incessant message is "Oh, the Republican field, what a clown car -- are they trying to throw the election?" I read that a lot. Do you complain about excess optimism?

I actually think there are hits on Romney that will be effective -- I just don't think this is one. My biggest problem is that the public is intuitively liberal but persuaded that conservative rhetoric makes sense and conservatives are really decent people. So they're angry at Wall Street, but not at individual rich, pro-fat-cat politicians. (They're not even angry enough at Obama for the policies of his that help Wall Street.) Maybe you you don't despair, at least a little bit, when watching the public's failure to grasp who its enemies are, but I do. In a saner country, the current Republican Party would be driven to marginal status.