Mitt Romney recounted some advice from his father, former presidential candidate George Romney, in Sunday’s NBC/Facebook debate about running for office: make sure you’re set for cash already.
“I happened to see my dad run for governor when he was 54 years old,” Romney said. “He had good advice to me. He said never get involved in politics if you have to win election to pay a mortgage. If you find yourself in a position when you can serve, you ought to have a responsibility to do so if you think you can make a difference, and don’t get involved in politics when your kids are still young because it may turn their heads.”
Romney later turned the mortgage line on one of his former opponents, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who he ran against unsuccessfully in 1994.
“I was happy that he had to take a mortgage out on his house to ultimately defeat me,” Romney said. He added that he never expected to win the election.
“I happened to have been wise enough to realize I did not have a ghost of a chance of beating him…I told my partners in my firm, I’ll be six months, don’t take my chair,” he said.
Spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told TPM that Romney’s fatherly advice was limited to the candidate himself.
“This was personal advice from a father to son,” he said. “People may make their own choices.”
Spokesmen for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich appeared to take him at his word, declining to comment on Romney’s quote. But others were less generous: Rick Perry advisor Nelson Warfield slammed the anecdote as a symptom of Romney’s wealthy upbringing.
“Mitt Romney had another $10,000 bet moment,” he told TPM. “Suggesting only the wealthy can ran for office is something out of a Green Acres scenario of running for president.”
Rodell Mollineau, president of Democratic Super PAC American Bridge, also condemned the comments.
“I’d say that Romney has forgotten what it’s be part of the working class or middle class, but he never was,” Mollineau said, adding his quote showed he “has no idea what average Americans are going through on a daily basis.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.