The problem with Mitt Romney isn't that he's rich. Let's face it: all the candidates are rich. Even the sweater-vest wearing, 1950s loving Rick Santorum has hit the $1 million mark, his tax returns revealed. The incumbent, president Barack Obama and his wife, are also millionaires.
Recent and past presidents and presidential candidates are no different: The Clinton duo's tax returns showed more than $109 million in income from 2000-2006 when Hillary ran for president in 2008. Both John McCain and John Kerry, recent presidential candidates, married into significant fortune. They're in good company. The Bushes, the Kennedys, the Roosevelts, Herbert Hoover, and on down to George Washington, all were wealthy. Check out this list of the 10 richest presidents if you need more proof that America doesn't have a problem electing or reelecting a rich man.
It's true that Romney's wealth is more significant than all of the current candidates combined - estimates put him at more than $200 million. But Americans are unlikely to dislike a man just for his wealth. It's all about how he explains it, reacts to it, and what he does with it - and Romney doesn't have a clue in this regard.
From his $10,000 bet gaffe to this week's stumble about his wife's "couple of Cadillacs," while campaigning in Michigan, Romney demonstrates his disconnect with the American public at a time when many still feel shaken by the recession. He should have been able to easily run on his business acumen, job creation, and promises of fiscal conservatism. He arguably has unique knowledge about the economy as well as the industry's banking infrastructures, which the campaign could have used to explain how he was going to fix the system and prevent another recession. Instead, Romney allowed himself to be distracted by things his competitors wanted to talk about, including his wealth.
People don't begrudge Warren Buffett his wealth, because he says things like 'tax me more,' nor do they dwell on Bill Gates' billions when presented with his incredible philanthropic efforts. Where is the Romney campaign's messaging on his good works and charitable giving? Perhaps that could have softened some of the reaction around his incredible wealth if introduced earlier.
It's only this weekend that Romney seemed to awaken to the idea that he could defend his financial success as a potential reason that he could make a good leader for the country. Once again, it's too little, too late, and will sound like another Romney flip-flop.