John Podhoretz tweeted the other day that it’s bizarre that Mitt Romney has been running for president for this long, and still hasn’t figured out how to talk about his wealth without sounding evasive and jittery. True. I still think Romney is the strongest remaining candidate the GOP could field against Obama, but after Thursday’s debate, it’s disturbingly clear that Romney believes he’s got something to hide. I’m not saying that he’s done anything illegal — there’s no evidence of that — but simply that he thinks that there’s something about his finances that embarrasses him, or rather, the potential disclosure of which gives him the jits.
Even if it’s nothing, Romney’s inability to defend himself credibly on allegations and insinuations surrounding his wealth has to make Republicans increasingly worried about him as their standard-bearer this fall. Obama is going to eat his lunch on this stuff, because he makes it so easy. Gingrich laid into him about this stuff in the SC campaign, and he didn’t have a good rebuttal. Nor did he go after Gingrich directly on his sleazy finances (e.g., the sweetheart $1.6 million
influence-buying consulting deal with Freddie Mac). It’s hard to figure.
Again, I still believe Romney stands a much better chance of beating Obama than any of his GOP primary rivals do, but this money thing, and his tepid campaigning against Gingrich, who is about to humiliate him in South Carolina, has to be freaking the GOP establishment out.
UPDATE: Romney’s trouble with the money issue isn’t all that mysterious to Daniel Larison:
The point is that he is a pro-bailout corporatist oblivious to the problems of decreasing social mobility, income stagnation, and rising income inequality. Romney’s wealth by itself isn’t the issue. It is the substance of his stated views on these and related issues that provokes negative reaction, and he has no response to this except to accuse other people of envy and accuse them of engaging in class warfare.