On Friday night, Mitt Romney spoke to the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in San Diego -- outlining a new focus on poverty and income inequality that would be at the center of his 2016 presidential campaign.
“Under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before,” Romney said. “Under this president, his policies have not worked. Their liberal policies are good every four years for a campaign, but they don’t get the job done.”
This is Romney's attempt at re-invention, an effort to show that the campaign he would run in 2016 would be very different from the one he ran (and lost) in 2012.
It's going to be a very difficult message for Romney to sell to the public. Two numbers from the 2012 exit polling explain why.
1. Among the 21 percent of people who said that "cares about people like me" was the most important candidate trait in deciding their vote, 81 percent voted for President Obama while just 18 percent chose Romney. 81 to 18. 'Nuff said.
2. Asked who Romney's policies would favor, a majority of voters (53 percent) said the rich while 34 percent said the middle class and 2 percent said the poor. Compare that to 44 percent who said Obama's policies would most benefit the middle class, 31 percent who said the poor and 10 percent the rich.
Those are not the numbers of a populist warrior and voice for the least among us. The problem for Romney is that he is regarded by many, at least today, as a wealthy plutocrat primarily concerned with feathering the nests of his affluent friends. Romney might have the right message -- frustration and anxiety over income inequality is everywhere in the country -- but he seems like a uniquely poor messenger to carry it.
Changing that perception will be the work of the his campaign -- if he decides there will be a campaign.