Romney’s verbal gaffes are plentiful. And often hilarious. If you really wanted to make the case that they show how “out of touch” Romney is with the average American, I wouldn’t dispute it.
I would say only that all these guys running for president are out of touch. Even though most brag about their humble beginnings, all now lead lives of privilege and comfort, and come in contact with average Americans only when their water heaters give out. (And their spouses usually handle that.)
Sure, they grip and grin on the rope lines with average Americans, but that lasts for about two seconds or however long it take somebody to snap a cellphone picture.
If these guys did not live in a bubble before they entered politics, they certainly live in one now. And they have large staffs whose job it is to keep the candidate away from the public (and press) as much as possible unless the situation is highly controlled.
Still, Romney manages to screw up.
In December, at one of the innumerable Republican debates, Rick Perry accused Romney of having changed his position on something or other. Perry had about as much chance of getting the Republican nomination as getting Texas to secede from the Union and naming him king, but he got Romney’s goat nonetheless.
Romney angrily stuck out his hand and said: “Rick, I’ll tell you what, ten thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?”
Grand, Mitt. Just grand. Remind everybody that $10,000 is chump change to you.
And who can forget Romney telling us that, “Corporations are people,” or that he made “not very much” money in speaking fees in year in which he made $374,000 in speaking fees. He wasn’t lying. It’s just that $374,000 wasn’t very much to him.
What all this shows is a man totally sincere in his isolation from average Americans. Except for his blue jeans — which one comic says that he wears over his suit pants — Romney doesn’t pretend to be average. He is a highly successful businessman, and he is proud of it.
So when he recently listed some of the American-nameplate cars he has owned — a Ford, a Chevy, a Dodge — it was only natural that he include his wife’s vehicles. “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually,” he said.
Actually, she doesn’t do so simultaneously. One is at their La Jolla, Calif., home and one is at their Belmont, Mass., home.
But Romney is a car lover, and so he goes down to the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, and he gets asked if he is a NASCAR fan — note to Romney team: At least try to prep the guy for the obvious questions — and Romney replies honestly.
“Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans,” Romney says. “But I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners.”
Doh! Just in case you were wondering, it costs about $15 million a year to maintain a NASCAR team, which allows you to buy really nice blue jeans and rub elbows with Mitt at country clubs.
But even with all this, Romney has one great thing going for him: Rick Santorum.
Rick Santorum doesn’t flub. He speaks from his deeply held convictions. Some of which are very scary.
Speaking in Troy, Mich., on Saturday, Santorum said: “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”
Had Santorum gone on to say that not everyone in America wants to go to college and that there is nothing shameful about manual labor, he may have had a point.
But that’s not all Santorum was saying. He added that he doesn’t want kids to go to college because if they do they are going to be “taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them.”
Then on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Santorum opened up like he was on a psychiatrist’s couch.
“You talk to most kids who go to college who are conservatives, and you are singled out, you are ridiculed, you are — I can tell you personally,” Santorum said. “I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views. This is sort of a regular routine. You know the statistic ... that 62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it. This is not a neutral setting.”
I am not entirely sure what Santorum was venting about or what Satanic ritual he was made to undergo in college — paddling? beer pong? — but it obviously affected him deeply.
So much so that he left college convinced that the First Amendment was not only hooey, but stomach-turning. Literally.
Santorum says that John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech stating there should be an “absolute separation”of church and state in America “makes me throw up and it should make every American.”
Santorum went on: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”
That is not a flub or a gaffe or an off-the-cuff remark. That is what Rick Santorum deeply believes and, moreover, what he believes “every American” should believe.
So you listen to Santorum. And you listen to Romney. And it sort of makes you not care how many Cadillacs Romney owns.
Roger Simon is editor of Politico.