When it is all said and done, historians may look back on this GOP primary season and conclude that Mitt Romney lost his chance at the nomination on a bet.
During Saturday night’s debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry challenged Romney on a passage in his first book, claiming an early edition had said the Massachusetts Romneycare program should be a model for the national plan. Romney disputed the claim, and when Perry persisted, he jokingly offered a $10,000 bet. “Rick, I’ll tell you what:10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet? “Perry didn’t take the bet, “I’m not in the betting business.”
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With that request for a bet, Romney has destroyed his two key selling points for the GOP nomination: electability and the economy.
The average American household has an income of $59,800 (gross) which means that Romney was not only breaking Mormon doctrine, which recommends against gambling, but he was also being casual with the equivalent of 1/6th of the cash the average family lives on. He might have just as well been amazed by a supermarket scanner as George H.W. Bush was, or suggested to the unemployed, “Let Them Eat Cake,” because Mitt Romney just announced that he was totally out of touch with the American people.
Barack Obama’s attacks on the GOP centers around a supposed lack of concern for the middle class. Should Romney get the nomination, expect to see that clip over and over, because whether true or not, last night Mitt Romney gave Barack Obama the ammunition he needs to show the former Massachusetts governor has no idea about the plight of the average family. That will probably include the first segment of the answer, when he talked about growing up wealthy. “I didn’t grow up poor,” Romney said. “But I grew up with a dad who had been poor and my dad wanted to make sure I understood the lessons of hard work.”
Almost immediately after Romney’s gaffe, former Obama aide Bill Burton, who now runs a Democratic party super PAC, was tweeting a preview of future Obama attacks.
“Not a lot of 99%’ers are out there making $10,000 bets,”
The DNC quickly fired off a mass email titled: “What the Average American Family Can Buy With $10,000.”
Romney had just lost any advantage he had on the “electability” issue.
One of the problems with the people running our government today is that they don’t treat tax dollars, which are actually the taxpayers’ personal money, the same way they treat their own personal income. After last night, the worry is that Romney will spend our money the way he spends his personal money, thoughtlessly tossing out $10,000 on bets.
Like it or not, in politics perception is sometimes more important than reality. Gerald Ford didn’t really mean, “There is no Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe”–he meant to say that the U.S. would never recognize the Soviet dominance. Nixon’s refusal of make up during the first debate with JFK made him look sweaty and sickly, so that (according to legend) TV viewers thought JFK won, while radio listeners praised Nixon. George H.W. Bush’s debate half-answers, his habit of checking his watch and picking lint off his suit, gave people the impression that he was disinterested. And Al Gore’s sighs during his debate with George W. Bush was seen (correctly) as arrogance.
No matter why Romney tried to make a $10,000 bet last night, it made him look like an out-of-touch, privileged man trying to show people how rich he is–a losing perception in this (or any) presidential campaign season.
My prediction here is that as of last night the Romney campaign is for all intents and purposes…over. Time to stick a fork in it, and I would be willing to bet anyone $10,000 of Monopoly money (20 crisp yellow bills) that I am correct.