In his first major address since indicating that he was seriously considering a presidential run in 2016, Mitt Romney stressed the need to lift the American middle class out of poverty, a platform which has drawn scorn from some of his critics.
"Doing it in such a ham-handed manner in what appears to be a deathbed conversion is a strange way to suddenly come out of the box with it, and I find it disingenuous, and I think a lot of other people will too.
"This is a guy who was pretty brazenly uninterested in addressing income inequality in 2012," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview with Politico
Speaking to a gathering at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting on Friday, Romney said it was "a human tragedy that the middle class in this country by and large doesn't believe the future won't be better than the past or their kids will have a brighter future of their own" and that people "deserve" rising wages, reports The Washington Post
"Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before," added Romney.
Romney broke new ground by choosing to publicly highlight some of his own charitable work as a Mormon pastor with the poor, an aspect of his life he did not promote in the last campaign.
Many believe the biggest challenge for Romney is overcoming the impression left in voters' minds that he only represents the wealthy.
That image became ingrained after the liberal magazine Mother Jones released a recording of Romney telling a room full of rich donors that "there are 47 percent
of voters who will vote for the president no matter what" because they are "dependent upon government," and see themselves as victims.
"Romney's problem has always been really about believability and connection with the challenges of average Americans. It's simply never going to be believable to go from car elevators, off-shore accounts and his famous 47 percent comment to the populist income equality warrior," Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina tells Politico
Democrats, however, may have believability issues with their current front-runner, Hillary Clinton, who also is said to be planning to formulate a platform to address income inequality.
A group of analysts at the Center for American Progress are currently working on policies geared toward reducing the gap between the rich and the poor, reports the Associated Press
Clinton could run into trouble running as a defender of the middle class given her own wealth. In the 16 months since she left the State Department, Clinton earned $12 million in speaking fees, Bloomberg News reported
Some liberal Democrats are circumspect that a Clinton presidency would truly represent Main Street, rather than Wall Street.
"If Hillary Clinton should be the next president, we run the risk of having Rubinism as the dominant Democratic economic ideology for three successive Democratic presidencies — and we will keep wondering why working people increasingly give up on Democrats and on government itself," writes Robert Kuttner
, co-editor of The American Prospect, referencing the economic policies shaped by Bill Clinton's former economic adviser Robert Rubin.
While Democrats concentrated their attacks on Romney's wealth, Republicans expressed doubt that, if the former Massachusetts governor does run again, his campaign would be any different from 2012.
"Gov. Romney is certainly a good man, but he has much convincing to do as a politician, because if the strategy is the same, the result will be the same.
"Most voters want to at least hear from the new, conservative leaders in our party and we owe that to them. It's clear no one is going to hand Gov. Romney the nomination on a silver platter," South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore told The Wall Street Journal
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