Romney finds it hard to shake 'silver spoon' image


Polls show that many voters believe Romney favours the rich, writes LARA MARLOWEin Washington

THE GOOD news for Mitt Romney is that Republicans are coalescing around his candidacy and his rivals for the presidential nomination have been relegated by the Washington Post to the ranks of the walking dead.

The bad news for Mitt Romney is that two-thirds of Americans just don’t like him.

First, the good news. On Wednesday night, Florida senator Marco Rubio gave his coveted endorsement to Romney.

The handsome, articulate, 40-year-old Cuban-American is the best young hope of the Republican party and is, along with New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, mooted as a possible running mate for Romney.

Rubio as vice-presidential candidate would almost compensate for Romney’s charisma deficit. And he could soften the Hispanic voters whom Romney alienated with his hard line on immigration.

But Rubio swears he doesn’t want to be on the ticket; he’d probably do better to run for the top job himself in 2016.

Rubio’s endorsement of Romney sounded like a bow to inevitability: “It’s increasingly clear that Mitt Romney’s gonna be the Republican nominee,” Rubio said. “We’ve got to come together behind who I think has earned this nomination, and that’s Mitt Romney.”

Rubio did Romney the favour of denouncing attempts by Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to drag out the nomination process. “There is no way that anyone can convince me that having a floor fight at the convention in Tampa in August is a recipe for victory in November,” he said. “It’s a recipe for disaster.” The former president George HW Bush (87) was also to declare his support for Romney at a joint appearance in Texas late yesterday.

Bush’s wife, Barbara, has already recorded telephone messages for the Romney campaign, and his younger son, Jeb, a former governor of Florida, endorsed him last week.

The only Bush missing from Romney’s slate is George W, but considering the grim memories of “W’s” presidency, Romney is probably better off without him.

Now the bad news. Romney keeps choking on the silver spoon that’s been in his mouth since birth. Earlier this month, the Tax Policy Center said Romney’s budget plan would provide a new tax cut of $250,000 to those earning more than $1 million, but would raise taxes for the poorest Americans.

No wonder 65 per cent of voters told a recent CNN poll that Romney “favours the rich”. Or that a Washington Post-ABC poll published on Wednesday found only 34 per cent of Americans like Romney, compared to 53 per cent who like Barack Obama. In another ominous sign, a Quinnipiac University poll this week found that Obama would beat Romney in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, three crucial swing states, if the election were held today.

Three times this week, Americans were reminded that Romney is the millionaires’ candidate. On Wednesday, he spoke to more than 1,000 voters in Wisconsin, which will hold its primary next Tuesday, in a “tele-town hall” from Texas, where he was waiting for the Bush endorsement.

You might think Romney would know better than to make light of a factory closure, after he was roasted for saying “I like being able to fire people,” and for having laid off thousands during his years at Bain Capital. But as the Democratic National Committee said after Romney’s Wisconsin gaffe, “Romney just doesn’t seem to get it.”

In what he introduced as a “humorous” story, punctuated with his “ha, ha, ha” chuckle, the Republican frontrunner told how his father, George, shut down an American Motors factory in Michigan in 1954, and moved production to Wisconsin.

Some 4,300 people lost their jobs, according to

“Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan, and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign,” Romney said.

The punch line was that a high school band at one of George Romney’s campaign events didn’t know how to play the Michigan fight song, but knew one for neighbouring Wisconsin.

“So every time they would start playing On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin.” Ha, ha, ha.

In an interview with Tonight Show host Jay Leno, Romney reiterated his promise to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law. Leno asked Romney if he would allow insurance companies to reject applicants with pre-existing conditions.

“As long as you have been continuously insured, you ought to be able to get insurance going forward,” Romney replied. But, he added, “If they are 45 years old and they show up and say ‘I want insurance because I have heart disease’, it’s like, hey guys – we can’t play the game like that.”

Rachel Maddow of MSNBC compared Romney’s reply to the debate last September where a CNN moderator asked the candidate Ron Paul: “What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn’t have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage? Are you saying society should just let him die?” Several members of the audience shouted: “Yeah!”

Last August, Romney said he would not proceed with the renovation of his seaside home in the rich enclave of La Jolla, California, until after the presidential election. (He also owns homes in New Hampshire and Boston.)

This week, Politico published its investigation of the renovation plans, which include Romney’s application in 2008 for permission to construct a four-vehicle underground garage with a “car lift,” and an additional 3,600sq ft of living space beneath the 3,000sq ft house with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. He would also add an outdoor shower and an unspecified “water feature” to the present swimming pool.

Planning permission can be tricky, so Romney engaged the services of San Diego attorney Matthew Peterson to lobby four city officials, at a cost of $21,500 – a pittance for a man who’s already spent $13.5 million on television advertising in the campaign.