Mitt Romney came under withering attack on Wednesday for being out of touch, after claiming that earnings of more than $370,000 were “not very much.”
When combined with his spontaneous $10,000 bet offer to Rick Perry during a televised GOP debate, and his claims that he knows what it is like to live in fear of being fired, his vast fortune could end up being the former Massachusetts governor’s Achilles heel.
And with another debate planned for Thursday night, rivals for the Republican nomination for the presidency will be sharpening their knives, ready to use his comments to suggest his immense wealth – which Romney himself puts at $264 million – prevents him from being able to understand the concerns of everyday Americans.
Rick Santorum was first to jump on Romney’s latest gaffe, made during a campaign stop in Florence, S.C.
“To make a statement that I made a couple of extra bucks giving speeches, when that couple extra bucks is over $300,000, to me says a little bit more about Gov. Romney and his connection with the American people than his tax rate, which is driven by a tax code,” Santorum said on Fox News.
Romney told reporters that he only pays around 15 percent tax because most of his earnings come from investments made years ago. He then added, “I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. And then I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.”
However, his personal financial disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission when he entered the presidential field, showed that he made $374,327.62 from just eight speeches between Feb. 26, 2010, and Feb. 20, 2011.
For three of those speeches, apiece, he received about one and a half times the average American’s entire annual salary.
The left wasted no time in attacking Romney for his comment. The liberal PAC American Bridge immediately released an attack ad featuring his comments and ending with the words “Not Very Much. To Who?”
Romney’s equivocation on releasing his tax returns is also giving ammunition to his rivals. He said during Monday’s debate that he would probably release his latest return in April, then the following day confirmed that he would.
But unlike most candidates, he has said he will only release his current year’s return. In a tradition started by Romney’s own father, George, when he ran for the White House in 1968, most candidates have released returns going back as long as a decade.
That has allowed pundits to come up with all sorts of theories as to why he is not being more open. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell suggested Romney will make sure that he will pay tax at a higher rate this year than previously so he will not look so bad.
And Reuters quoted tax experts as saying that Bain Capital, the company Romney headed, holds many of its investments overseas in tax-friendly destinations including the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Hong Kong and Ireland.
Even prominent Romney backer, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has pushed him to be more open about his financial standing.
Christie told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," that when he started his term as governor, “I went back a number of years and released my tax returns. And I released them every year after I filed them, right after I filed them to the public of New Jersey so they can see everything
“That’s the right way to go and that’s what I would tell the governor to do,” Christie added.
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