ORLANDO, FLORIDA—Mitt Romney just can't drop his phony everyman act, and he added a new spin on it Friday night: the struggling young businessman.
By this point anyone with even the slightest interest in politics is well aware of Romney's extreme wealth. Criticism from his rivals finally forced Romney to enter his most recent tax returns into the public record, and the figures were astounding. He earned $21.7 million in 2010; he earns the average median household income in less than a single day.
Yet he continues to uncomfortably wear his regular-guy jeans over his Brooks Brothers suits, trying his hardest to convince voters that he can relate to their economic woes. When he was here in Florida last year he told a group of voters that he was also unemployed and, in New Hampshire, the Harvard MBA/JD said he had also had moments where he was concerned about getting a pink slip
Romney included a new narrative of hardship at a rally hosted inside a pant factory plant in Orlando on Friday night. He began by railing against the government before discussing the early parts of his career as a
vulture venture capitalist:
"Let me tell you the difference between what happens in the real economy—the private sector—and when government is practicing crony capitalism, playing by their own set of rules. You see, when we first helped Staples (the office superstore) get started, we raised about $5 or $10 million, to get that first store going. The government put in $500 million into Solyndra. And our offices, by the way, were in the back of a shopping center, an abandoned shopping center. We had all old furniture. I remember these chairs we had for the board meetings; they were these mahogany hide chairs. We sunk so deeply you had to have an athletic body to get out of them."
That must have only seemed like roughing it compared to the throne Romney sat on at Bain Capital. When consulting firm Bain & Company tasked Romney with spinning off a new private equity venture in 1983, he raised $37 million in funds to launch the new group the next year, hardly the type of budget to describe a group meeting in back alleys and sitting on leftover furniture purchased from Goodwill.
It's mystifying why Romney continues to push this persona. America loves the idea of a self-made millionaire, and while that's a bit of a hard sell given his father's prominence in business and politics, it's surely closer to reality than his current guise of a typical suburban small business owner.