David Frum

07.09.12

Advice to Romney: Be a Better Rich Guy

In Robert Caro's new LBJ biography, he tells this story of John F. Kennedy:

Kennedy faced considerable opposition within the Boston Democratic organization when he first ran for Congress in 1946. He made an early public appearance at an event organized by the local leadership. One after another, contenders for the nomination took to the stage to tell party members how they "came up the hard way." At last it was JFK's turn. He opened his speech, "I see I'm the only person here tonight who didn't come up the hard way." Caro tells us that the quip turned the whole room around, confirming the old saying that in politics you get a lot further with a joke and a lot of bribes than you do with a joke alone.

Still, I thought of that story as I read Josh Green today:

Mitt Romney’s fundraising events in the Hamptons yesterday wouldn’t have looked much different if the Obama campaign had organized them on his behalf. From the ostentatious mega-mansions, to the Bentleys and Ferraris, to the guests’ crass boasting about their yachts and condescending putdowns of the poor and middle class, the whole scene seemed designed to reinforce Team Obama’s preferred image of Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat concerned only for those with a comparable net worth.

For Romney, just back from a jet-skiing vacation at his lakeside manse in New Hampshire, the events will raise lots of money and put further distance between himself and the president. In June, he and the Republican National Committee out-raised President Obama and the Democratic National Committee $106 million to $71 million. But every time Romney draws attention to the unseemly aspects of his wealth (or when his supporters do, like the Hamptons crowd), he undercuts that fundraising advantage and hurts his candidacy. He does this a lot: bragging about his multiple Cadillacs, proposing a $10,000 bet during a GOP debate, boasting of his friendship with NFL owners. Romney’s problem is that while he was very good at getting rich, he isn’t any good at *being* rich. In fact, he’s downright terrible at it.