Mitt Romney just made his first big campaign error, said Garance Franke-Ruta. At the Republican presidential debate in Des Moines last weekend, the former Massachusetts governor got flustered when rival Rick Perry taunted him over Romneycare’s requirement that citizens buy health insurance. With an irritated grin, Romney offered to bet Perry “10,000 bucks” that he hadn’t recommended that other states adopt Massachusetts’s “individual mandate.’’ Big mistake.
Here was a candidate who grew up wealthy, and amassed his own $250 million fortune, casually offering to bet thousands of dollars. “Who has $10,000 to bet with—these days, or any other?” Certainly not Iowans, whose average income is $38,000. Romney’s rivals quickly pounced on his wager as proof that he’s “out of touch.” Newt Gingrich’s campaign manager joked that Romney carries 10 grand in his pocket, while Democrats gleefully informed reporters that $10,000 could buy an “average American family” three years of groceries. Romney’s gaffe probably isn’t fatal. But now that he’s lost his front-runner status to Newt Gingrich, he also seems to be losing his cool.