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February 27, 2012 8:36 AM Mitt Romney and the Popeye Defense

By Ed Kilgore

As you may have heard, Mitt Romney made a surprise appearance at the (subsequently suspended) Daytona 500 yesterday, and made another one of his patented gaffes that draw attention to his wealth and elite status, as Sarah Boxer of CBS reports:

Mitt Romney went to the Daytona 500 NASCAR race Sunday for what should have been a chance to show he’s one of the guys. Instead, in casual conversation with an Associated Press reporter at the Florida track, he reminded people once again that he is not exactly a regular Joe.
Asked by the AP reporter if he follows NASCAR, Romney responded, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”

Earlier in the day on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Romney how he’d respond to people who say he doesn’t “connect” with regular people, and played him a clip of his boast last week in Michigan that he owned four American cars, two of them Cadillacs. Here’s how Mitt responded:

You know, I can’t be perfect. I just am who I am….
If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy. Because I’ve been extraordinarily successful. And I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.

Frankly, the Popeye defense (“I am what I am and that all what I am,” the sailor man often said) isn’t a real good one for Mitt Romney, particularly when it is combined with claims that anyone wondering if a guy like him understands what it’s like to experience real economic insecurity.must either be an envious would-be looter or one of those class-warfare socialists. The loud-and-proud I’m-better-than-you posture is also a bit problematic for someone trying to become the presidential nominee of a party that relies heavily on the argument that Barack Obama is an out-of-touch elitist.

But given a wide-open chance by Chris Wallace to “correct a misconception” about himself yesterday, Romney did not address any of this, but instead talked about the misconception that someone representing Massachusetts couldn’t be a teeth-grinding, hippie-hating conservative, so to speak. That’s his message in the primaries, and he’s sticking to it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • peachy on February 27, 2012 8:48 AM:

    I can't imagine Mitt saying "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam," though.

  • jpeckjr on February 27, 2012 9:04 AM:

    I'm beginning to wonder if these are gaffes. Perhaps Mr. Romney is in touch with the admiration many Americans have for the rich and the successful. "If I can't own several Cadillacs, or know someone who owns a NASCAR team, I can at least have a President who does."

  • james on February 27, 2012 9:08 AM:

    But it is not a misconception that Mitt Romney is rich. It is the truth. It's a misconception to imagine he could ever be just one of the guys.

  • T2 on February 27, 2012 9:10 AM:

    these kind of statements are out of touch...just like when Bush didn't know what a scanner was at the grocery store. And that's why he's poised to lose the nomination to a guy who wants to do away with separation of Church and State....the very foundation of this nation and it's government.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on February 27, 2012 9:18 AM:

    If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy.

    I'm reminded of the Cake song 'You Turn the Screws'. "You turn the screws and you think that I must turn them too".

    Mitt, if you had started up a successful manufacturing or IT company, or done pretty much ANYTHING normal people consider productive, folks from all walks of life would celebrate your success. Hiring lobbyists to secure big $$$ from taxpayers and preying on American manufacturing companies isn't what I would call "extraordinary success". But then I have values.

  • j on February 27, 2012 9:22 AM:

    A report out today about the jobs Romney is boasting about creating (Staples etc) are jobs that are not enough to lift people out of poverty, less than $9.00 per hour.

    I am getting worried about Gulag, know his Dad was very ill, anyone hear from him?

  • Peter C on February 27, 2012 9:23 AM:

    It's not just their candidates who are terrible - it's their whole ideology. Are ANY of their Congressional or gubenatorial candidates REALLY any better? Republicans have nothing to offer but failure and ugliness. They are sophists with nothing but rhetoric behind their statements. I hope the Democrats are working hard at candidate recruitment; any one of the remaining Presidential candidates could easily take the party down. This is when a 50-state strategy could pay off in a big way.

  • Ron Byers on February 27, 2012 9:26 AM:

    I find it pretty strange that someone who spent two or three years as a missionary doesn't know how to relate to regular people. Maybe he just knows how to relate to ordinary French people, or maybe there is a reason he never converted a single person.

  • nemisten on February 27, 2012 9:27 AM:

    Successful as a businessman? Yeah, OK. As a governor? Um, NO.

    Keep on being yourself, Willard. I still have lots of popcorn.

  • Grumpy on February 27, 2012 9:28 AM:

    "If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy."

    He must mean that miserable failure Rick Santorum, since Barack Obama is pretty successful, too.

    Romney's wealth doesn't disqualify him for the presidency. Being an asshole about it, especially in the aftermath of an economic disaster perpetrated by people like him, is what disqualifies him.

  • Ron Byers on February 27, 2012 9:28 AM:

    Peter C, you are preaching to the choir, you are preaching to the choir.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on February 27, 2012 9:42 AM:

    @ AndThenThere'sThat
    And you didn't even mention the silver spoon....
    Pulled himself right up by the bootstraps he did.
    His Daddy was a poor impoverished automobile executive and Governor... living hand to mouth , why he could barely afford an ivy league college education for Mittens...Oh the humanity.

  • Philippe on February 27, 2012 9:47 AM:

    "Maybe he just knows how to relate to ordinary French people"

    I'm French, quite ordinary... And I don't think he does !

  • Anonymous on February 27, 2012 9:49 AM:

    "Romney's wealth doesn't disqualify him for the presidency. Being an asshole about it, especially in the aftermath of an economic disaster perpetrated by people like him, is what disqualifies him." Grumpy

    Exactly right "Grumpy" but please let me insert the words "self righteous" before the word "asshole".

    If there is one thing that will doom the Republican Party's crop of presidential wanna bees, it is their completely unfounded and arrogant belief that they have discovered economic and social wisdom somewhere back in the 19th or 14th centuries and that modern Americans should just shut up and take their noxious medicine.

  • Robert on February 27, 2012 9:50 AM:

    That last 'anonymous' was me.

  • Shirley on February 27, 2012 9:59 AM:

    But all in all, Mittens is still a less scary choice than Saint Santorum......

  • DRF on February 27, 2012 10:02 AM:

    Romney's response was the smart one. He's trying to turn the issue from whether he is out of touch (which, of course, he is, and he can't credibly deny that) into the question as to whether he is unqualified to be President simply because he's rich. This latter issue works for Romney. I believe that most Americans respect someone who's wealthy, particularly if that person earned his wealth. And I think most voters would resent an attack on a candidate simply because he's wealthy. I think this is particularly true of Republican voters, but probably applies nearly as equally to independents and Democrats.

    In any event, the meme that Obama is an out of touch elitist has some value within the Republican base, but I doubt that it would be a particularly effective campaign issue in the general election, regardless of who the Republican candidate is.

  • stormskies on February 27, 2012 10:02 AM:

    J

    I am getting worried about Gulag, know his Dad was very ill, anyone hear from him?

    ********

    He hasn't posted for a bit now ..... let's all pray and wish for the best for Gulag and his Dad ......

  • Robert on February 27, 2012 10:04 AM:

    You think you know Mittens, Shirley? Just wait until he is in the Oval office trying to keep his right wing wacko base happy. If there is one thing I have learned in life it is that an ambitious, self deceiving, ego maniac with power is extremely dangerous.

  • Diane Rodriguez on February 27, 2012 10:14 AM:

    Brezinzki on Fareed Zakaria GPS nailed the 4 candidate GOP field in a paragraph, inlcuding Mitt. Priceless.
    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/24/watch-gps-brzezinski-embarrassed-as-an-american-by-gop-candidates/

  • CharlieM on February 27, 2012 10:26 AM:


    I dunno if Romney's remark about team owners is near as bad as his usual tin ear musings. Or, at least, whether it will be seen as quite as elitist to those NASCAR fans he's trying to appeal to.
    A lot of those owners and teams are former drivers - at least the public face of those teams. NASCAR carefully cultivates a good 'ol boy image of their drivers and teams.
    While I'd have a hard time believing he's really a NASCAR fan (he seems to have admitted as much), I wouldn't put his statement in the usual elitist frame. It's a stretch to put this one in the same column as "couple of cadillacs" or "betcha $10,000" or his labeling $370k as some small amount.

  • steve on February 27, 2012 10:26 AM:

    Mitt's skill is at raising money from rich people. See Salt Lake's Olympics. He is not the skilled manipulator that analyzes companies and harvests value. His claims to the contrary are BS.

  • biggerbox on February 27, 2012 10:26 AM:

    He's been "successful" but I'm not sure I'd call him a "successful businessman." Did he make anything of lasting value? Did he take a new idea and transform the world with it, making money in the process? Was he even good at figuring out how to get people something they wanted at a price they liked? Mitt Romney is no Steve Jobs, and he's not even a Sam Walton. He got rich, but did other people really come out ahead in any way?

    Romney was a wheeler-dealer, and his big Olympic 'success' was about making financial deals, not about management skill.

  • 4jkb4ia on February 27, 2012 10:51 AM:

    This reminds me of when Harold Ford made a similar gaffe, something about riding on Woody Johnson's plane, and it laid bare that he had absolutely no grassroots support.

  • Ronald on February 27, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Bush had the NASCAR crowd in hand because they could easily picture him being willing to get down in the stands with a stack of beers to watch the cars go around.

    Nobody every pictures themselves 'having a beer' with the team owners.

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on February 27, 2012 1:32 PM:

    If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy. Because I’ve been extraordinarily successful. And I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.

    That quote is extraordinary. Who would ask such a stupid question? The fake nod here is only a percentage can be successful in America, the lucky rest have service industry jobs...or nothing at all and should be shunned. 2nd question; Will your help to the American people come as a govt assistance, recipe for dismembering companies, something wrapped in a flag or more likely-raping the country?

    dolted, pareim

  • max on February 27, 2012 3:11 PM:

    Willard: "If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy. Because I’ve been extraordinarily successful. And I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people."

    Yep, another riches to riches story like The Donald. Just inspirational.

  • pjcamp on February 27, 2012 9:33 PM:

    "A yam, what a yam."