Why don't people like Mitt Romney?
Following his double-digit trouncing of Newt Gingrich in last week’s Florida Republican primary and Nevada Caucuses, Mitt Romney looked to be on a rocket ride to the GOP nomination for president.
However, this week's primary results are a stark new reminder that the former Massachusetts governor cannot seem close the deal with his own party’s conservative base. Voters in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri rejected Romney is favor of the latest anti-Romney, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
Romney looks like a winner in upcoming races in Michigan, where his father served as governor, and in Arizona. But then the campaign moves to primaries in the Southern States, where Romney is weakest.
That means it is likely more losses loom ahead of him as the conservative heart of the party continues turn away from him.
The reluctance of the GOP faithful to embrace Romney is now spreading to moderate and independent voters.
Recent polling from ABC and the Washington Post shows Romney with a 49 percent unfavorable rating compared to just 31 percent favorable.
Also, according to ABC/Washington Post, President Obama would beat Romney if the election were held today, 52 percent to 43 percent.
So, why don’t people like Mitt Romney? Let’s start by considering what the American people have learned about him in just the last few weeks:
From the disclosure of his tax returns, voters learned that his net worth is over $200 million from his multitude of investments. If elected as the 45th commander-in-chief, he would be the richest U.S. president in recent history.
According to reports, if you combined the wealth of the last eight presidents (Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama) – and then doubled that number - you would be somewhere in the area of Romney’s worth.
Investigative journalists are still pouring over those tax returns. It is a big job because there is so much money in so many different bank accounts scattered around the globe in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
His five sons have a trust fund worth over $100 million.
Reuter’s reporter Day Cay Johnston has written that the Romney family has paid no taxes on that $100 million – not one cent in gift or estate taxes – for the past decade by taking advantage of loopholes – all which appear to be legal.
Another tidbit that may have impressed voters is Romney’s recent application for a permit to quadruple the size of their $12 million beach front mansion in California. Romney’s campaign spokesman claims the renovations are necessary because the mansion is currently “inadequate for their needs.”
Any mention of Romney’s wealth is immediately met with cries of “class warfare” and “punishing success” by his campaign.
Americans are not bothered by the fact that Romney is enormously wealthy. The problem is how he became enormously wealthy.
His old company, Bain Capital, is known on Wall Street for perfecting the art of the “leveraged buyout.”
Bain made hundreds of billions of dollars by stripping and salvaging the assets of struggling companies as they neared bankruptcy. Under Bain’s stewardship, companies like American Pad and Paper, GS Industries, Dade international closed plants and let go hundreds of the worker. Bain investors made hundreds of millions from these deals.
That reality has prompted even his Republican rivals to question the roots of his wealth.
Rick Perry accused him of “vulture capitalism.” The Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich is running ads calling him a “greedy, ruthless corporate raider who slashed jobs for profit.”
Even former rival Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (who now supports him) was critical of Bain’s practice and correctly pointed out that when Romney was governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in terms of job creation.
With the Occupy Wall Street Movement having sparked a national debate about income inequality, Romney personifies an unattractive side of the elite 1%. In short, they are able to avoid tax rates that apply to the 99%.
And they are doing so at a time when the richest 400 Americans have more money than the bottom 150 million... combined. That means the top 1% controls 25% of the total income in this county.
Also, according to a recent analysis from Bloomberg, the average income for the richest 10 percent of the population is nine times that of the poorest 10 percent and has increased 10 percent since the 1980s.
Contrast this economic reality with Romney’s frequent gaffes when he is talking about the economy.
Last week, he declared:
"I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it.”
His aides say the comment was taken out of context but the fact that they had the candidate come out and try to clean up the damage suggests they see trouble.
But Romney's comments bring to mind a Spanish proverb that says even the foolish sayings of a rich man pass for wisdom.
Romney’s continued insensitivity on issues of wealth and privilege contribute to an image of an out-of-touch plutocrat who is insensitive to the economic pain being felt by the average American.
“Corporations are people, my friend,” he told an aggressive questioner in Iowa.
“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” he said before accepting the endorsement of Donald “You’re Fired!” Trump.
There was his casual $10,000 bet with Rick Perry at a presidential debate.
And his dubious claim that he knows what it is like to be unemployed.
Again, there is broader context to all those statements but the list goes on and on.
Romney’s missteps call to mind former Texas Governor Ann Richard’s zinger at George H.W. Bush at the Democratic National Convention in 1988: “He can’t help it – he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
At this juncture, Romney’s biggest enemy in winning the nomination is not Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul. It is not the mainstream media or reluctant conservative movement leaders who will gather at CPAC in Washington this weekend.
No, Mitt Romney’s worst enemy is proving to be...Mitt Romney.
Juan Williams is a writer, author and Fox News political analyst. His latest book "Muzzled: The Assault On Honest Debate" (Crown/Random House) was released in July.