Remember back in 2008, when John McCain got in trouble for not being able to recall how many homes he owned? (The correct answer was seven, by the way.) This caught my eye from a Time magazine article on Mitt Romney:
Meanwhile, Romney brought his skills as a turnaround artist to his own operation. In 2009 he sold two of his four multimillion-dollar homes, which had become political liabilities in this age of downsizing. At his 11-acre (4.5 hectare) estate in Wolfeboro, N.H., he continued to host brainstorming salons with political strategists, campaign donors and party insiders, discussing the state of the nation and trying to work out just what to do next.
Well done, governor -- good to see you embracing the spirit of austerity. I almost feel bad for you, having to get by with merely two multimillion-dollar homes, the lakeside New Hampshire estate and the seaside La Jolla estate. And it couldn't have been easy to part with the 9,500-foot ski lodge in Deer Valley, especially since you only got $5 million for it.
But seriously, is this going to be a problem for Mitt? No. In 2008, John McCain was an extremely rich guy whose money came from marrying an extremely rich woman. His out-of-touchness was highlighted by the fact that he was arguing to the public that things weren't so bad in the economy. In 2012, Romney will be arguing that the economy is terrible, and he can fix it. And the fact is that we've been lionizing CEOs ever since Lee Iaccoca became a celebrity in the 1970s. This is a country that presents Donald Trump, a walking caricature of nouveax riche vulgarity, as a hero. It certainly won't hurt in the primaries, since many Republicans see wealth as a sign of virtue.
Romney grew up rich -- his father was the president of a car company, then governor of Michigan -- but he also made his current fortune as a management consultant and investor. He can make a legitimate claim to economic expertise (though, as I've argued before, being a business leader doesn't necessarily mean you understand what government can do to help the economy). There are lots of ways Mitt can be ridiculed for not being "one of us," but being too rich may be the least of his problems.
-- Paul Waldman