Mitt Romney's 9 worst clueless-rich-man gaffes

The GOP presidential contender is among the nation's wealthiest Americans — and he keeps reminding voters by sticking his well-heeled foot in his mouth

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is worth as much as $250 million, and he keeps inadvertently reminding Americans of his privileged position with ill-advised, off-the-cuff remarks.
(Image credit: Bloomberg News photo by Scott Eells)

"For Mitt Romney, ad-libbing is becoming a liability," says Reid Epstein at Politico. When the normally on-script Romney makes off-the-cuff remarks, the result is often one "YouTube-worthy moment" after another, readymade for attack ads from his GOP presidential rivals or President Obama's campaign. And the super wealthy "Romney's gaffes are almost always related to his economic status," says David Weigel at Slate. Let's call it "Romneying," or making "unforced references to one's own economic success." Here, nine of the best (or worst) "Romneyisms":

1. He pals around with NASCAR team owners

NASCAR races tend to be fertile ground for Republican presidential candidates, so Romney went to the (rain-delayed) inaugural race of the NASCAR season, the Daytona 500, on Feb. 26. When an AP reporter asked Mitt if he follows NASCAR, Romney replied: "Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners." Ooof, says Slate's Weigel. "The reference to 'ardent fans' would have been enough; the reminder that he sups among the super-rich was totally gratuitous."

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2. His wife drives "a couple of Cadillacs"

Speaking to the Detroit Economic Club on Feb. 24, Romney went off-script to speak of his love for his home state, where the cars are made in Detroit and "the trees are the right height." Mitt was also quick to remind the crowd that he drives Michigan-made cars — a Ford Mustang and a Chevy pickup — and that his wife "drives a couple of Cadillacs." Considering the Motor City's high poverty rate, bragging about owning two $35,000-plus Caddies is "rich, literally," says Charles Blow in The New York Times.

3. He's not concerned about the very poor

Elated over his campaign-saving victory in the Florida primary, Romney interrupted his victory lap on Feb. 1 to tell CNN's Soledad O'Brien: "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there." His consultants must have been "gnashing their teeth at this remark," says Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly. Regardless of the broader point he was trying to make, "it's this tone-deafness that makes a lot of Republicans nervous about Mitt Romney as a general-election candidate."

4. He thinks $374,000 is "not very much" money

On Jan. 17, after a week of hounding from his GOP rivals and the media, Romney agreed to release his tax returns. The former private-equity businessman continues to make most of his income from investments, but also noted that he gets "speakers' fees from time to time, but not very much." The problem is that "not very much" was $374,000 last year, says Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. It's great the Romney's wealthy, but if he wants to win, he has to stop talking about money "as though engaged in a discussion with his stockbroker."

5. He likes "being able to fire people"

On Jan. 9, Romney talked up his prescription for health insurance reform, suggesting that insurance policies shouldn't necessarily be tied to your employer. That means, he said, "if you don't like what [insurers] do, you could fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." The bit about firing people was immediately ripped out of context, says Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post, but it doesn't help that "the look on Romney's face when he says this line is right out of evil-boss-man central casting."

6. He claims to have feared the pink slip

A day earlier, on Jan. 8, Romney commiserated with a group of New Hampshire voters, saying that he knows what it's like to "worry whether you're going to get fired," and that when he first started working in finance, "there were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip." That set up Texas Gov. Rick Perry's best line of his (now defunct) campaign: "Now I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out."

7. He casually bets $10,000

Perry and Romney had a pretty heated exchange at the Dec. 10 GOP debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Perry claimed that Romney was trying to bury his past support for health insurance mandates, and when he wouldn't back down, Romney stuck out his hand and said: "Rick, I'll tell you what. Ten thousand bucks? Ten thousand dollar bet?" That was a "huge unforced error" that played right to Romney's greatest vulnerability: He "seems rich, elite, and out of touch," says Mark McKinnon at The Daily Beast.

8. He believes corporations are people

About a month before Occupy Wall Street came into existence, Romney was challenged by hecklers at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11. When Romney said he opposed raising taxes to pay for entitlement programs, a man shouted out "Corporations!" Undaunted, Romney shot back: "Corporations are people, my friend.... Of course they are. Everything corporations earn also goes to people." At least "'Corporations are people, my friend' makes a nice bumper sticker" for giggling progressives, says David Dayen at Firedoglake.

9. He jokes about being unemployed

Romney held a coffee chat with a group of Florida job-seekers last June, telling them, "I'm also unemployed." The unemployed voters laughed good-naturedly, but not everybody found the quip funny. Romney has a "gift for odd, awkward, delusional gaffes," says Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice. It's this kind of joke that will keep the "ridiculously wealthy Romney" from ever persuading "the common clay that his is just like the least among us." He shouldn't even try.

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