Dana MilBank: Romney is too rich to pull off populist appeal

2012-10-01T00:00:00Z 2012-11-01T21:25:15Z Dana MilBank: Romney is too rich to pull off populist appealBy Dana MilBank The Washington Post Winona Daily News
October 01, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Meet Willard Mitt Romney, champion of the common man.

“Do you realize over the last four years the median income in America has dropped every single year?” the candidate asked his supporters during a stop in Springfield, Va., last week. “At the same time,” he added, “food prices are up; electric prices are up; gasoline prices have doubled. These are tough times for the American people.”

But these are not tough times for a lot of Romney boosters, judging by the look of things.

Romney made this stand for the little guy in the heart of Fairfax County, which has the second-highest median household income in the nation (neighboring Loudoun is No. 1). Seemingly everyone in the 200-person crowd was fingering a smartphone, with the exception of the guy in the polo shirt in the second row reading The Wall Street Journal, and the guy in the eighth row in a linen blazer checking the Drudge Report on his iPad.

To get a better sense of the economic status of the invitation-only crowd, I strolled the parking lot — and found a fleet of BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Cadillac SUVs, and sports cars bearing the Jaguar, Audi, Lexus and BMW labels. Parked near the entrance: a black Rolls-Royce Silver Spur III with vanity plates saying “MY ROLLS” — and a Romney bumper sticker.

When it comes to speaking up for the downtrodden, Romney isn’t just another man of the people. He is the Rolls-Royce of populists.

With evidence building that his prospects have been hurt by his dismissal of nearly half the country as moochers, Romney has been making it his job to worry about the 47 percent of Americans he said it wasn’t his job to worry about.

But when such an appeal is attempted by a man who has painstakingly crafted for himself a public image combining Scrooge McDuck and Thurston Howell, there is bound to be a certain amount of awkwardness and inconsistency.

Consider, for example, his new ads showing him speaking in front of a sooty group of coal miners, as various miners in their Appalachian accents criticize Obama’s coal policy. But the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reported that the miners who appeared behind Romney in the ad had had their shifts canceled early — and they weren’t paid for the lost time while they stood on the stage behind Romney.

There was also his unexpected response when NBC’s Ron Allen asked him about his difficulty connecting with middle-class Americans. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance,” Romney boasted. “I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.” But the next morning, he took the stage in Springfield and announced: “I got to get rid of Obamacare” — the nationwide program based on his own empathetic program in Massachusetts.

And, there was this I-feel-your-pain moment: “I’ve been across this country; my heart aches for the people I’ve seen,” he proclaimed in a high-school gym.  Inconveniently, a 1985 video surfaced the next day in which Romney explained that Bain Capital’s goal with the companies it invested in was “to harvest them at a significant profit” — as if they were organs being removed from an accident victim.

Why the Baron of Bain would be making a late appeal to the downtrodden is obvious. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that American regarded Romney’s “47 percent” remarks negatively, 54 percent to 32 percent.

But the outreach to the 47 percent he privately regarded as parasites furthers the impression that Romney is inauthentic — an impression encouraged by the candidate’s contrived delivery. In Springfield, Romney at one point recited a verse from “America the Beautiful” (though he has stopped singing the tune) and later in the speech held his left arm aloft, pretending to be the Statue of Liberty lifting her lantern.

The speech was at an American Legion hall to a group of veterans, so Romney, who didn’t mention veterans in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, built up the part of his usual stump speech where he promises to increase Pentagon spending (while also cutting taxes and the deficit). He thanked the “heroes” in the hall — and then hung around backstage, leaving the “heroes” waiting 20 minutes or more because the Secret Service wouldn’t let them leave until Romney was gone.

Romney, champion of the little guy, then took his motorcade downtown for a $50,000-a-plate fundraising dinner.

Even a man of the people needs to eat.

Dana Milbank can be reached at

Copyright 2015 Winona Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. eagle rock
    Report Abuse
    eagle rock - October 03, 2012 11:12 am
    "I truly will not be very disappointed if Mr. Obama wins. He got us into this mess and I'm not sure anyone can get us out."

    justareader...........according to the comment above need to be

    moreofareader...........and less of a fox watcher..........bush got us into this mess..

    not obama..........obama was left with the mess bush are ill informed is destroying our country.....

    and as for janben........
    "You should be more interested in his ability to make money and put folks back to work."

    the rich do not make jobs..........demand makes jobs

    you are part of the slave /indentured servant ideology ..........the massah wil give me work

    you are not dealing with the facts.............
    the working class make jobs by buying 'stuff'

    when the rich want to control you........they make sure your job is in jeopardy

    so you will stop buying 'stuff'

    i have no interest in havng money...........never have

    i have an interest in my country rising to its potential.........and that is not going to happen

    with the rich folks will take care of me attitude.........that is demeaning and demoralizing

    if i keep the rich in power .......they will give me the crumbs from their table

    if i do what i am told

    i will not succumb to that prescription of what america is ...........ever

    unlike you..........who is on their knees ....head down........begging for crumbs

    the poor make the rich

    when they discover that.......the revolution will commense

    if you are reading in the scheme of things......are poor

    not part of the 1% who control the wealth

  2. justareader
    Report Abuse
    justareader - October 02, 2012 10:49 am
    People don't seem to realize that the local cab driver (not a slam on cab drivers), is not likely to have the drive and perseverance to become a president of the US. Already Barack Obama is a multimillionaire. I can't conceive having as much money as either candidate so that isn't an issue to me.
    What is an issue to me, is my money. Mr. Obama seems bound and determined to continue his outlandish spending program, printing money to cover it, and sending our economy over a cliff with monstrous public debt. Each person in the United States owes $185,000 on the national debt. Oops, I forgot. A lot of people don't pay taxes. Make that a lot more.
    John Kennedy had a few bucks. Didn't seem to hurt him. John Keary married a lot of money, I wonder if Mr. Milbank jumped on that?
    This is nothing but a DNC hit piece designed to sway the election for the liberal media.
    Did I mention the countries credit down grades. When Bernanke runs out of ink, and interest rates climb, then watch this debt skyrocket even more.
    I truly will not be very disappointed if Mr. Obama wins. He got us into this mess and I'm not sure anyone can get us out.

  3. janben
    Report Abuse
    janben - October 02, 2012 7:40 am
    I don't understand your preoccupation with Romney's money you can't spend it but perhaps you would like to. You should be more interested in his ability to make money and put folks back to work. All our politicians have big bucks. Even back years ago Hubert Humphrey started out as a pharmacist from northern MN. You should be more interested in someone who could have the ability to bring our gas and food prices down someone who can bring respect back to America from foreign governments. Someone who can demand some answers about Fast and Furious someone who will solve our immigration issues and someone who does not stomp on our constitution. And not someone who believes he is a dictator. We need a leader not a forever campaigner business is in DC not in the rest of the country
  4. eagle rock
    Report Abuse
    eagle rock - October 01, 2012 9:54 am
    obama was a humble pauper.........unlike romney.......obama is the example for all americans

    of how you can overcome all obsticles and rise to your potential

    that is what obama did

    unlike romney or bush...........who lived their life in their father's shadow
    they road their father's coat tails.....

    obama did not have a father with coat tails

    he is the epitomy of a self made man

    but he would say ........rightfully so

    he did not do it .......he did not build it...........those that came before him gave him

    opportunity.........and he took it ........he did not go to wall street to make wads of cash

    he went to the streets of help the organizer

    which he is derided for.......
    ......obama is the smartest most strategic thinker we have ever had in the oval office
    in modern times........and yet 50% of us want to throw him out after 4 years of keeping us
    out of the abyss...........the same 50% that were more than willing to cheerlead bush
    for 8 years of unpaid for ...unwinnable wars.........and the biggest financial catastrophe
    we have ever experienced.........

    whats wrong with these people

    they vote not their consceince .....they cannot deny truth

    .....they vote their team....they have a team mentality

    its not team america.........its team republican

    its shameful.........they would doom prove themselves right

    that is a form of treason

    reason or treason


  5. eagle rock
    Report Abuse
    eagle rock - October 01, 2012 9:34 am
    he is a stepford candidate........he is a stepford human

    he lives his life in a "pretend" world

    he is the great pretender...

    he has to do nothing more... than what he is told....

    by his controllers (money).... and all is well in his world he said he doesn't even look at his tax returns.....

    he just signs them like he is told....

    and that is exactly the kind of president he would be.....

    he does what he is told... by his he has always done

    the people at the $50,000 a plate dinner .....are his world...........

    for instance the 1968 photo of him on a beach in france in the sand with the i love ann
    he was not in viet nam............he was in france lounging on the beach.....that is different
    than being blown to pieces on a beach.......

    like so many of the rich.........they did not go to viet nam........even with the draft.......
    they went somewhere else..........

    why... because they could..........unlike the 47%

    the 47%...........they will never vote for he said

    unfortunately that is not true

    the 47% is who will vote for him

    they are the red states.........
    the least educated
    the poorest
    the most obese
    the bigges welfare states

    they are the base for the republicans

    ...they vote against their own interest.........
    they have a yes massah mentality,,,,,,,,grateful for crumbs......

    they depend on the rich to keep their promise,,,,,,,,

    that they will give them a job $10 an hour job

    he is the man for them..........the rich guy
    he has what they need....

    money...........and a job

    mostly they have money and a title

    its not a real job.........a $10 an hour job......

    romney is out of touch with reality

    he does not realize the republican party base is poor whites old whites dumb whites

    they make up his base.......he does not see them.......
    he sees only the world of the 1%
  6. Sampson
    Report Abuse
    Sampson - October 01, 2012 9:31 am
    Yep, BO is just a humble pauper.... his fund raising dinners are only $30,000 a plate at the Clooney mansion. More drivel from Dana.
  7. Leslie Hittner
    Report Abuse
    Leslie Hittner - October 01, 2012 6:13 am
    Romney's on a downward slide. The Republicans, thinking they had all of the answers, couldn't even find an "answer man." Instead they have an old cliche that has been twisted around, "Trust me, I'm from the industry."

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