Thus far, Mitt Romney’s wealth has caused him quite a few awkward moments on the campaign trail. Recall, for example, when he called $374K in speaking fees “not very much.” On Friday, Romney had another one of his out-of-touch moments when he said that his wife Ann “drives a couple of Cadillacs.” But rather than try to walk back the comment, team Romney appears to have a new tactic for dealing with this problem.
When Romney and a surrogate were asked about Ann’s Cadillacs on the Sunday talk shows, their response was not to hide or apologize for Romney’s wealth. Instead, their message boiled down to: Yes he’s rich, get over it.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace played the clip of Romney’s comments and asked Romney if he can see why people may be “put off.” Romney replied indignantly: “If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America then they better vote for the other guy.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a top Romney surrogate, sounded the same note on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning. Asked about the Ann Romney’s Cadillacs, Christie replied:
So the cat’s out of the bag, Bob, on the fact that Governor Romney’s wealthy. So he has a number of cars. Many people who’ve made a lot of money over time do. I think this is just something where, to be candid, folks are looking for him to make trip-ups.
The ‘get over it’ approach to Romney’s wealth is one some Republican strategists and Romney supporters have been hoping Romney would adopt for a while. After Romney took a beating over comments about firing people, as well as flack over his tax returns, they wished Romney would use a less apologetic approach. As one Republican strategist told TPM’s Benjy Sarlin in January, Romney should channel the man who has since endorsed his candidacy: Donald Trump.
“Trump never goes on defense on his wealth and, if anything, is obnoxiously offensive,” said former George W. Bush adviser Brad Blakeman. “His popularity comes from the fact that he is successful. Romney needs to be positive about his wealth and how he earned it.” Though he did caution that Romney should not replicate Trump’s arrogance.
Perhaps Romney’s finally taking this advice. Romney and Christie tried to turn the candidate’s wealth into a political asset Sunday, arguing that financial success is exactly what the country needs in a president. “Listen, Governor Romney’s been successful,” said Christie. “I think that’s what we want in a president of the United States. Do we want somebody running who’s been a failure in everything they’ve done?”
“I’ve been extraordinarily successful,” Romney said Sunday, “and I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.