Is This The Time For A Quarter-Billionaire?

by Alec MacGillis | November 8, 2011

We'll find out tonight whether the labor-led revolt against John Kasich in Ohio is as strong as the polls have indicated, and we'll spend tomorrow trying to prognosticate how much of that revolt will carry over into next year's presidential election in that extremely crucial swing state.

But for now, let's just pose the question that's been on my mind a lot recently: at a time when voters are in a deeply populist mood and generally awakening to the stark reality of extreme income inequality, is the Republican Party really on the verge of nominating a man with an estimated $250 million to his name, who made his money as a private-equity titan, who "looks like the guy that fires you," and who likes to expound on the personhood of corporations?

What got me thinking about this again today are the remarkable new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll numbers. As NBC's First Read notes, "heading into 2012, America is looking for a populist. According to the poll, a whopping 76% agree with the statement that the current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country."

And so the Republicans are coalescing around...the candidate who is estimated to pay no more than 15 percent on his income taxes, given that most of his income is in the form of capital gains -- what the Democrats have already dubbed the "Romney Rule." Are the voters picking up on the disconnect? You bet. It's no secret that white working class voters are a big vulnerability for Barack Obama (though it's often overlooked that he did better with them in 2008 than John Kerry did in 2004.) And they should be an even bigger vulnerability this time around than they were in 2008, given how rough the past four years have been on their fortunes. But look deep into the Journal's article on the poll and what do you see:

While white working-class voters are ready to vote for an unnamed Republican over Mr. Obama by 48 percent to 36 percent, Mr. Romney finds himself dead-locked with Mr. Obama among that key group, 44 percent to 44 percent....By strong margins, the president beats Mr. Romney when voters are asked which man is better at being compassionate enough to understand average people....

This all puts me in mind of a good line from a few weeks back by the Journal's Daniel Henninger, not generally someone I'm wont to quote. Henninger lamented that Republicans were not being presented with more options: "The enthusiasm flowing to Mr. Christie came from the same people who had hoped to see Congressman Paul Ryan in the race, or Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush. All of them made clear they understood we had arrived at a big moment for the nation. Mr. Romney, by contrast, leaves the impression that the country has arrived at his big moment."

Romney has waited his turn, as Republican presidential wannabes are supposed to do. But is his turn arriving at the right moment for a quarter billionaire? Paging Mike Huckabee...

*Postscript: Turns out this disconnect is dawning on some on the right as well. From Eric Erickson's latest column at Redstate:

It is striking to me that in 2012 there is broad based popular angst against Wall Street and Washington and the Republican Party is on the verge of nominating a multi-millionaire scion of the Rockefeller Wing of the Republican Party whose closest encounters with the common man are accidentally touching one of the many hired hands in one of the many rooms of one of his many mansions. But then many of the DC-NYC Republican “conservatives” who support Romney are the same, only coming into contact with regular people when they are served their breakfast by a steward in the first class car on the Acela Express.
Neither Romney nor the Washington GOP crowd who loves him have very much at all in common with fly over country conservatives who see the GOP and Democrats both as out to lunch tools of K-Street and Wall Street. The party that could lead a conservative, populist campaign against Wall Street and Barack Obama, the former getting fat off the latter, will instead nominate a guy more at home on Wall Street than Main Street.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-stump/97199/the-time-quarter-billionaire