The Washington Post

`The problem with being the Swiss bank account guy’

The Romney campaign is refusing to answer the Huffington Post’s questions about the salaries the Romneys pay to their maids. In brief: The New York Times noted the other day that the Romneys paid only around $20,000 in 2010 to four household helpers.

HuffPo called some domestic staffing agencies and found that this seems out of sync with the going rate for domestic help in Massachusetts, raising the “worrisome alternative” that “the Romneys underpaid their household help.” A Romney campaign adviser wouldn’t answer HuffPo’s queries about the situation.

I don’t have any idea if this is problematic, and indeed, it seems perfectly plausible that there’s a good explanation. But this raises another question: Is the GOP really going to nominate someone, at this particular political and economic moment, who is worth as much as $250 million — and is getting press questions about not just his low tax rates, but on whether he underpaid his multiple maids at his multiple houses?

Having maids obviously isn’t any kind of disqualifier for the presidency, but really, could the optics of all these stories be any worse?

As I noted the other day, the blue collar white vote is going to be absolutely pivotal in this election, and the drip-drip-drip of revelations about Romney’s wealth and taxes are causing his negative rating among them to spike dramatically. Steve Kornacki had a good piece on this problem today, adding that recent exit polls also confirm that Romney is struggling badly among lower income whites:

Just about everything about Romney — his upbringing, his education, his career, his lifestyle, his bearing — exudes top one percent-ness. This may explain why his struggle to win over blue collar Republican voters began long before the media obsessed over his tax returns. And it suggests that even when the current uproar dies down, the same basic image problem will (if he wins the nomination) haunt him with blue collar swing voters in the fall.

Kornacki’s piece is called: “The problem with being the Swiss bank account guy.” One has to imagine this is at least a little worrisome for GOP leaders who are gauging Romney’s electability. I get that the other GOP candidates are probably far less electable than Romney — and no question, Mitt very well may prove a formidable general election foe. But it really does seem possible that Romney’s weaknesses as a general election candidate had — until now, that is — been papered over by his rivals’ far more glaring flaws.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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