SUMTER, S.C. – Presidential candidates hear tales of woe all the time on the campaign trail. But rarely does one respond by pulling cash out of his back pocket to help a struggling voter pay her bills.
Mitt Romney did just that here Saturday night, according to ABC News. When a 55-year-old woman, Ruth Williams, who said she lost her job last October, approached the Republican presidential front-runner on the rope line following a campaign rally in Sumter, he gave her what an aide later said was about $50 or $60.
It did not appear that the exchange was caught on camera, but ABC’s off-air reporter, Emily Friedman, witnessed it and interviewed Williams afterward. Williams told Friedman that she has been volunteering at Romney’s Columbia, S.C., campaign offices and has been following his campaign since first spotting his campaign bus on Wednesday.
“I was on the highway praying and said, ‘God, tell me how to get [my] lights on,’” Williams, apparently referring to her electricity bill, told Friedman. “I pulled up to a stop sign and his bus was there. And then God said, ‘Follow the bus,’ and I followed the bus.”
Williams said she followed his bus to the Columbia airport, but Romney wasn’t on board. Aides told her to go to a rally later that day and when she showed up, Romney found her, said hello and introduced her to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R).
“He was kind to me and he made Governor Haley come see about me,” Williams told Friedman. “He stopped doing everything.”
Williams told Friedman that South Carolina Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Romney’s state campaign chairman, paid her light bill on Thursday. “God didn’t tell me to go to nobody else,” she said. “He told me to pray for Romney. I listened to the Lord.”
There was no indication that Romney’s cash gift was calculated or anything more than a spontaneous reaction to one woman’s story of personal struggles.
But it comes as Romney’s rivals are trying to portray him as a cold, heartless businessman who became fabulously successful by prioritizing profits above workers. In turn, Romney, who has estimated his net worth at between $190 million and $250 million, has been trying to relate to the unemployed. Last weekend in New Hampshire, Romney said “there were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.”
This wasn’t the first time Romney tried to give cash to someone at a campaign event. Last June, at a Mexican restaurant in Aurora, Colo., a boy gave Romney a $1 bill that he had folded origami-style for good luck. The candidate rifled through his wallet looking for money to give the boy in return.
Romney had a $100 bill, but evidently did not want to give that away. An aide handed him a $1 bill, but Romney said that wasn’t enough. Then, deep inside his leather billfold, Romney found a $5 bill. “We’ll give you an Abraham Lincoln back,” he said, handing it to the boy.