Can the Romney Campaign Overcome Mitt Romney?

a | A

By Margaret Carlson

Because Mitt Romney's campaign advisers have been wrong about so many things, I wrote this morning, they are probably also wrong in their belief that his campaign is falling apart -- a belief many of them conveyed (anonymously of course) to Politico.

I may have underestimated the depth of the problem. It's not Romney's dysfunctional staff we need to worry about. It's Romney.

In an exchange at a fundraiser last spring, Romney told a bunch of wealthy donors in Boca Raton, Fla. -- the host famously throws lavish X-rated parties -- that 47 percent of the country will vote for Obama "no matter what" because they are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are victims."

What Romney misses is that the workers building his car elevator are likely in that 47 percent. So are many veterans -- those unemployed, those working and those wounded. So are millions of senior citizens. So is my  brother, who gets Social Security's Supplemental Security Income because of a disability.

What Romney's words reveal is a mind closed to the lives of most Americans. He discounts life's vicissitudes: who you are born to and where, the doors that swing open, the presumption you will ascend to jobs in which your pay doesn't get docked when you get a flat tire.

Romney's remarks are an insult to all those whose lives haven't been as smooth. Mormons believe in helping the less fortunate, and by all accounts Romney is generous.  But doesn't government as well have a role to play? Then there's self-interest: Does Romney even realize that many of the 47 percent are white Republicans prone to give him their vote and a break? And surely the rich do not want grim poverty just outside their mansion walls.

Generally Americans don't resent the rich but concede them their good fortune. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that many of us still channel our Puritan forebears, with 42 percent of those surveyed believing that the rich are more hard-working than average Americans.

When I go out to restaurants, I sometimes pause to wonder why I'm the one eating a delicious three-course meal instead of serving it. Romney would probably never think such a thing.  He seems to think life is fair, and that's why he has been so richly rewarded. What separates the people paying thousands of dollars to hear him speak at an private reception and those serving the canapes is that the waiters apparently believe "the government has a responsibility to take care of them."

I suggest Romney subject himself to an episode of "Undercover Boss" and see how most people juggle grueling jobs, long hours and spotty child care. The man who cleans my office every night works much harder than I do. When he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid, unlike Romney, who made millions even when the companies he took over failed.

Political campaigns often have the effect of opening a candidate's eyes, and mind, to new experiences. That's not the case with Romney, whose hair is combed as tightly as he is wound. When he unwinds among his own people, it's not pretty.

(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)

Read more breaking commentary from Bloomberg View at the Ticker.


-0- Sep/18/2012 18:19 GMT