As is the case with many politicians, Mitt Romney's greatest strength is also his biggest weakness. His experience as a corporate executive should make him a good presidential candidate in a year when the economy is bad. However, while the former liberal and former governor of Massachusetts can speak fluently about the economic big picture he is completely tone deaf when he tries to relate to the middle class families who are hurting so badly.
Romney can't even relate to the average race fan. Yesterday, at the Daytona 500 track, a reporter asked him if he followed NASCAR. Romney said he didn't follow the sport "as closely as some ardent fans, but I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners." That's Romney's problem in a nutshell. He knows the owners of most corporations but doesn't know any of the employees.
Friday, speaking in Detroit, which is the poorest city in America, Romney told voters that his wife "drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually." Romney could promise to put two Cadillacs in every garage but it wouldn't have the same ring as Herbert Hoover pledging to put a single chicken in every pot.
Last June, Romney told voters, "I'm also unemployed." It's easier for Romney to be unemployed than other people since he has stashed millions of dollars in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. If he keeps talking like that he'll still be unemployed next year.
Last August he told an Iowan, "Corporations are people, my friend." If corporations are people, why isn't the investment firm Goldman Sachs doing a long stretch in a federal pen for defrauding thousands of investors?
Instead of sympathy from the former Bain capitalist, voters get a 59 point economic plan and power point presentations. Then, of course, he asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry to agree to a casual $10,000 bet. I could go on and on, but I don't have the space here to chronicle every misstep Romney has made when he tries to relate to working families.
Romney's platform betrays his background as much as his personality.
Mitt supported the Wall Street bailout for bankers and billionaires but opposed the GM bailout that saved the jobs of thousands of auto workers.
Mitt supports the Rep. Paul Ryan's budget which decreases federal spending for financial assistance for seniors who can't afford to heat their homes but preserves the federal freebies to big oil to the tune of $4 billion a year.
Romney, like many other prominent politicians, is of the manor born. But Mitt, unlike the others, never developed the common touch. Franklin Delano Roosevelt came from the same privileged background as Romney, but he could talk to an assembly line worker or a farmer without sounding patronizing. When Bill Clinton told Americans in 1992 that "I feel your pain," he meant it because he had felt the pain as a boy growing up in a poor town in Arkansas. In contrast Clinton's opponent, the patrician president George H. W. Bush didn't even know what a super market scanner was.
You can take Mitt out of the manor but you can't take the manor out of Mitt.