Why No One Likes Mitt Romney
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A lot of ink has been spilled detailing Mitt Romney's many flaws as a candidate for the Republican nomination. It's true that he's stiff and lacks charisma, that he's a poor debater, that his religion is suspect among evangelicals, and that he's held views in the past on issues like cap-and-trade and mandating health insurance that run afoul of today's Tea Party-driven party orthodoxy.
But what about a simpler explanation for his trouble sealing the deal with the GOP base? Perhaps, as we struggle through a painfully moribund recovery from the worst finance-driven crash since the Great Depression, it's just not the cycle to be a fat cat who made a fortune on Wall Street. (Romney's fortunes are improving in Michigan, and he looks to have Arizona all but tied up, but Santorum still holds a 5-point lead nationwide and there are some very conservative states coming up on Super Tuesday.)
There is evidence to support this view. According to Gallup's tracking poll, Rick Santorum, veteran culture warrior, appears to be winning a class war against his deep-pocketed and better-organized foe. Since the week of February 6, Santorum has enjoyed a 16-point swing among primary voters, fueled largely by conservatives coalescing around him as the right-wing alternative to Romney. But there are some additional (and to some degree overlapping) groups he can thank for his fortunes. Among Republicans and Republican leaners who don't have a college degree, Santorum has enjoyed a 19-point swing. And while Romney holds a narrowing lead of 4 percentage points over Santorum among voters making $90,000 or more, Santorum, after an 18-point swing in his direction, has opened up a 12-point lead among those who aren't doing as well. Unfortunately for Romney, those making less than 90 grand outnumber those making more by almost three to one.
The leaders are offering an almost Dickensian tale of two campaigns. Although Santorum's fundraising has reportedly picked up since his three-state sweep on February 7, the Independent reported that Santorum's “campaign is stretched so thin he sometimes sleeps in supporters' spare rooms and even taps them for a lift to his own rallies.”
Contrast that to the style in which Romney has been travelling. Think Progress dug into the campaign's expense reports and highlighted some of the ultra-luxe accommodations Romney enjoys on the campaign trail. In Arizona, he's stayed at the Hermosa Inn, “a luxury boutique hotel in Scottsdale-Phoenix” that offers “exclusive lodging accommodations in one of the city’s most affluent suburbs.” Rooms are running as high as $765 per night right now. In Virginia, he stayed at the Jefferson Hotel, “Richmond's grandest hotel and one of the finest in America," where suites cost up to $1,200 a night. In Southern California, he bedded down at the Resort at Pelican Hill, voted the top resort in the country by the readers of Conde Naste Traveler. Its best accommodations will only cost you $995 a night.
Of course, both of the frontrunners are quite rich relative to most of the voters they're hoping to attract. But while the Washington Post reported that “Rick Santorum grew wealthy over his four years working as a corporate consultant and media commentator after leaving the Senate in 2006,” he can honestly say that he comes from a middle-class background. His father was a psychologist, his mother a nurse, and he attended public schools in Pennsylvania.
Romney, on the other hand, has led an entirely sheltered life, divorced from any reality that most of us can imagine. He was born into a wealthy family – his father was an auto exec, and later the governor of Michigan – and raised in a tony suburb of Detroit where he attended an exclusive prep school. Then, after graduating from Brigham Young University, he went into management consulting before making an incredible fortune as a corporate raider.