The day after twin losses in the Deep South, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney responded with an unapologetic defense of his business success when asked by a journalist about campaign-trail gaffes in which he referred to wealthy friends even as he courted the support of low- and middle-income voters in economically depressed states.
“Guess what? I made a lot of money,” Romney responded when Megyn Kelly of Fox News Channel asked him about offhand comments he has made in the past referring to friends who own NASCAR and National Football League teams. “I’ve been very successful. I’m not going to apologize for that.”
He blamed not himself, but the Democratic National Committee, saying, “I know the DNC tries to push this out, and they get it on the mainstream media networks. And that’s where you guys see it and everybody laughs about it, because in this country we want someone who can help other people become successful. This is a nation which is not going to choose our president based on these little innuendos and personal attacks.”
Romney said he would stay focused on “retaining the ability of Americans to have confidence that their kids' futures [will be] brighter than their own past.”
The son a former Michigan governor, Romney made a fortune as the head of the Bain Capital corporate restructuring firm before entering politics. The recent criticism has not been limited to Democrats; even Republicans have chided Romney for poor judgment for describing his elite lifestyle as he tries to boost his appeal to blue-collar Republicans.
While visiting Daytona International Speedway in late February, Romney was asked if he followed stock-car racing and replied “not as closely as some … but I have some friends who are NASCAR owners.” Then, this week, asked on a radio show about quarterback Peyton Manning’s free-agent status, the candidate’s response included the comment, “ the owner of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets, both owners are friends of mine.”
Romney, the front-runner who lost primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday to former Sen. Rick Santorum, who represented Pennsylvania, also disputed Kelly’s assertion that he is struggling with voters who earn less than $100,000 a year, with exit polls showing his support consistently softer with that group than with high-income earners.
“You don’t win a million more votes than anyone else in this race by just appealing to high-income Americans,” Romney said. “I’ve been able to have support … from tea party supporters, men and women. I’ve got good support with women in our party. You just saw the poll that you showed me with independents, those aren’t all wealthy people. These are average Americans.”