When Michael Bloomberg and John Corzine were running for their respective posts in New York and New Jersey both succeeded by making a strong case that their wealth gave them a decided advantage over their respective opponents. Being successful businessmen did not make Bloomberg or Corzine smarter or more patriotic than their opponents, but rather both candidates pointed to their fortunes as a shield against political corruption. They were too rich to succumb to special interests or pay to play schemes.
Few recall that George Bush made similar inferences in his 2000 campaign against Al Gore. During that campaign Bush often talked about restoring honor to the office, an inference that was as much a dig on Bill Clinton’s sexual exploits, as much as it was a knock on the sleepovers that Clinton and Gore were fond of hosting at the White House for Democratic donors. Throughout his campaign Bush sought to make the case that his Harvard MBA, his
sterling business credentials, and his personal wealth gave him an insurmountable amount of leverage over Washington’s notorious special interest groups.
Bloomberg, Corzine and Bush all won elections in the early aughts, and seemed to have laid a blueprint for other wealthy individuals seeking political office. And if you look at most congressional and senate races of the last decade you will see an uptick in millionaire candidates and victors. This is not only because campaigns have become more expensive, but also because in many instances the allure (particularly on the GOP side) of candidates too rich to be bought has proven irresistible. Such a political climate would seem like a golden opportunity for a quasi-billionaire former CEO like Mitt Romney who can also tout being the first governor to pass universal healthcare in his state oversaw and chairman of an Olympics in another state.
Instead, Romney has largely struggled. First getting battered by his Republican opponents during the primary as they consistently referred to him as a “vulture capitalist” and “the worst republican candidate to run against Barack Obama.” Still Romney has managed to win his party’s nomination by a wide margin, only to now compromise that victory with his peculiar defiance about releasing his tax returns for fear of political harm, and having to suffer the indignity of hearing the last republican presidential nominee John McCain say he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate because “she was the better candidate.”
In no short order Romney has managed to fail at making a case for himself as a capable CEO, much less comporting himself like one, but he has successfully managed to inspire disdain from both sides of the political aisle. It’s not because he’s been successful that both republicans and democrats don’t like Romney’s, but it’s that he epitomizes the worst of this nation’s last gilded age, the 1990s. After spending much of the last decade you would think Romney would have realized this fact, but he has not and continues and will continue making the same political mistakes over and over again.