Oops. The effect of this somewhat bizarre flub has further cemented the image of Romney as an out-of-touch, rich, white male. I agree. What could possess a person to bet that much money so casually? Sure, from time to time I jokingly bet someone $10, but even then I hope I don’t have to pay.
Popular criticism of Romney on this point is well-deserved. But when I thought about it more, I considered that none of the people running for president are really average Americans, at least financially speaking. According to The Wall Street Journal, the average American net worth in 2010 was “about $182,000 a person—though the average is pulled up by a small group of the very wealthy.”
The Republican candidates’ net worth (according to Fox Business):
- Mitt Romney leads the pack with $190-250 million.
- John Huntsman is worth $16-71 million.
- Newt Gingrich has at least $6.7 million.
- Ron Paul comes in at $2.5-5 million.
- Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann each have between $800,000 and $2.8 million.
Not one to be left out, President Obama’s net worth is arond $7.3 million. So no one’s really hurting here. While Mitt Romney far exceeds the pack in terms of personal wealth, each of the candidates could be considered outside of the mainstream. The least rich of them (Rick Santorum) is worth more than four times the average American.
This is, I think, the new status quo. Running for office takes money, and no one for whom $10,000 is a prohibitive amount of money could hope to afford the journey. Besides that, people in our society who are qualified to be president will likely be highly successful individuals…with wealth to match it. So, unlike some, I’m not furious that our politicians are outside the norm when it comes to net worth. It think the bigger and more important question is, though: do they understand what it is like to NOT be rich? This is something Bill Clinton (to name just one example) conveyed very well. The fact that Mitt Romney seems somewhat tone deaf on this point is disconcerting for a lot of people.
How this will play out for the Republicans? We’ll see in the next few months…