I witnessed both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush face questions about their affluent surroundings and privileged upbringing. Each felt he had to explain that he had made something of himself without anyone’s help. Each had a narrative and anecdotes about the times in his life when his success was uncertain and he was on his own. Both misfired when they tried to play the role of the self-made everyman. No matter what they accomplished while they were on life’s journey, they were usually swinging with a net below them, put in place by prosperous, loving parents.
Fortunate, wealthy, privileged Democrats don’t have to deny their advantages the way Republicans do. If you are a liberal and you want to be benevolent to all and generous with other people’s money after you have been handed yours, you get more of a pass in politics than Republicans believe they do.
For Mitt Romney, his need to explain his independence and unaided trip across life’s tightrope has produced several awkward, clumsy errors. It is a little unfair, but these episodes are best described by the old saying “he was born on third base and he thought he had hit a triple.”
So to Carter’s point, I think many candidates like Romney have lacked a common touch because it is in fact mostly alien to them. I’m not sure Mormonism is Romney’s problem.
I’ve been waiting for the “alien or exclusionary precepts” of Mormonism, as Carter puts it, to come under attack. I’ve said that Romney could not win a majority in Dixie-state GOP primaries because of his Mormon beliefs and a church history that create prejudices.
I’ve thought the big attack on the Mormon faith would come as the last resort in the primaries or certainly in the general election. But Romney’s weaknesses have made the unflattering and un-American “last resort” option unnecessary in the nomination contest so far. The general election is not yet upon us and it may not include Romney anyway.
Theology isn’t Romney’s problem yet. And if he doesn’t get better on live TV and in unscripted settings, he won’t have to worry about it.