Mitt Romney's Cadillacs boast: Gaffe or 'brilliant pander'?

During a big speech on the economy, the wealthy Republican tries to win over Michiganders by reminding them that his wife drives not one, but two Cadillacs

The revelation of Ann Romney's two luxury Cadillacs has sparked debate over Mitt Romney's wealth versus the importance of driving American.
(Image credit: Ralf-Finn Hestoft/Corbis/Corbis)

Mitt Romney gave a big speech on reforming entitlement programs and the tax code to 1,200 members of the Detroit Economic Club on Friday, but the punditry isn't buzzing about Mitt's financial ideas. Instead, Mitt was mocked for holding a 1,200-person speech in a near-empty 65,000-seat football stadium and the media seized on an off-the-cuff remark in which Romney said he drives Detroit-made cars — a Ford Mustang and Chevy pickup — and "Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs." Apparently forgetting that most Americans are lucky to own a single car, Romney sure got "people talking about his wife's two Cadillacs," says Mark Trumbull in The Christian Science Monitor. (Apparently, the two Caddys are kept at separate houses.) On Sunday, Romney shrugged off the criticism, telling Fox News Sunday, "If people think there's something wrong with being successful, they should vote for the other guy." Is casually mentioning his wife's two $35,000-plus luxury cars an unforced error ahead of blue-collar Michigan's big primary on Tuesday? Or is driving American always good politics in Detroit?

This could play well in Michigan: Reporters are treating this "oddball moment" as a gaffe, says David Weigel at Slate. But it might actually be "a brilliant pander." Romney's wealth is hardly a secret, and "shaming wealthy people for doubling up on luxury American cars doesn't make a ton of sense," especially in the Motor City. Besides, Romney is running for such an elite job that, if he wins, "he gets his own plane, and we pay for it."

"'Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs'"

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Actually, this tone-deaf gaffe will hurt Mitt: Romney infamously argued that the feds ought to let Detroit's auto industry go bankrupt, so for him to brag about his two Caddies now, well "that's rich, literally," says Charles Blow in The New York Times. Mitt's "wealth-tainted aside" was probably quite jarring for residents of Detroit — which has the highest poverty rate of any big U.S. city — particularly because it came amidst Mitt's explanation of a plan that would effectively raise taxes on poor families. That's not exactly a favorable contrast.

"Mitt, Michigan and a couple of Cadillacs"

The press is showing its anti-Romney bias: Reporters hounded Romney to outline his agenda, and when he complies, what does he get? asks Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. Snark about empty seats and "feigned horror" over his wife's cars. "The press is so anxious to find 'gaffes' that they seem oblivious to the fact that Michigan natives want lots of people to own Cadillacs."

"Even if the coverage is inane, Romney should get out more"

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