Romney’s Wealth Emerges as Subtext in ‘Cadillac’ Comment at Detroit Event

Mitt Romney is a wealthy man, as he keeps reminding voters, even if it’s unintentional.

In remarks today to the Detroit Economic Club, Romney highlighted his love of American-made cars by saying he owns a Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet pickup, while his wife, Ann, drives “a couple of Cadillacs.”

Cadillacs retail for $36,000 to $74,000, according to Edmunds.com., an online auto market. One reason the Romneys may need multiple vehicles is that they own homes in Massachusetts and California, plus a vacation place in New Hampshire.

Romney’s comments as he campaigned ahead of Michigan’s Feb. 28 primary are reminiscent of the inability of Senator John McCain of Arizona to remember during his losing 2008 presidential run how many houses he owned.

An NBC/Marist survey of likely voters in Michigan’s Republican primary released Feb. 22 showed Romney had 37 percent support and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with 35 percent. A Romney loss in Michigan, where he spent his boyhood and where his father served as governor and an automobile company chief executive, would be a blow to his candidacy.

His comment today “once again emphasizes the difficulty he has connecting with people,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. “Most people aspire to own one” Cadillac, she said.

‘Very Poor’

He was forced to defend a Feb. 1 comment on CNN that, as he offers proposals to help the middle class, he isn’t “very concerned about the very poor” because they have a “safety net” of government programs to aid them. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another Republican presidential contender, was among those attacking Romney’s remark, saying, “I really believe that we should care about the very poor.”

In January, Romney told voters that he likes “being able to fire people who provide services to me.” The comments sparked criticism, though he was referring to health-insurance providers, not employees.

He also faced questions after saying he would make a $10,000 bet with then-presidential rival Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, to settle an issue dispute during a Dec. 10 nationally televised debate. Romney later said in a Fox News interview that he had offered “an outrageous number to answer an outrageous charge.”

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who helped form a private equity firm in Boston, estimated his wealth to be as much as $250 million on financial disclosure statements. He earned $21.6 million in 2010, mostly from investments, according to tax returns he released in late January.

Romney in his speech today also sought to establish his connection to Michigan by saying it was good to be back in a state where “the trees are the right height” and “the streets are just right.” He didn’t elaborate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at bfaler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider in Washington at Jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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