Four years later, an even-richer man wanted to be president of the United States. His name was Donald Trump. He bragged about his wealth, which made the media think it was a non-issue. Everywhere Trump campaigned, journalists neglected to ask: How could he relate to the everyday Americans whose votes he sought?
Seriously now: What is going on here? Where are all the stories asking whether Trump — he of the gold-plated seat belts (seat belts!) on his Rolls Royce in the sky — is out-of-touch with regular people?
The obvious answer, of course, is that Trump appears to connect with regular people very well. The evidence is even quantifiable: Americans without college degrees and those earning less than $50,000 per year help form the foundation of his campaign. He does much better with them than with rich and more-educated people like himself.
Romney, on the other hand, fared better on the higher ends of the income and education scales — from the earliest days of the campaign to the first primary states and all the way to the general election. There’s plenty of anecdotal proof, too. Just look at the enthusiastic crowds Trump gets in working-class communities; Romney never connected with this demographic.
Something about Trump seems to make people say, “Hey, if I struck it rich, I’d be a lot like him.” Romney never possessed that quality.
Trump’s candor helps him, too. “I’ve always been greedy,” he told a crowd in Iowa over the weekend. “I love money, right?” Reporting on a subject that a candidate discusses openly is never as exciting as probing one that he doesn’t want to talk about.
Still, there are very real questions about just how President Donald J. Trump would actually serve the interests of middle- and low-income Americans. His tax plan would reduce rates across the board, but would also shrink federal revenue by at least $10 trillion over a decade, according to multiple estimates, raising the prospect of cuts to social services and entitlement programs.
And where does Trump’s working-class relatability come from, anyway? From a hardscrabble youth? Nope. Trump grew up very comfortably in New York, the son of a successful real estate investor. From a blue-collar background? Hardly. Trump attended the finest schools, including the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and took over his father’s company.
As with Romney, it would be unfair to disqualify Trump because of success he achieved through a combination of privilege and hard work. Would we rather put a failure in the White House?
But Trump’s ability to resonate with people far below his station in life — which is basically everyone — really comes down to talk. As I’ve noted before, one of his greatest natural gifts is picking up on what others are thinking and feeling, and articulating those sentiments. It’s a genuine skill — one that could serve a president well.
Just because Trump can channel what’s on your mind doesn’t mean he can relate to what’s happening in your life, however. He’s still — like Romney — a lifelong patrician whose experiences in business and the public eye are completely foreign to most voters.
The media should push harder to find out how, exactly, Trump plans to be the champion of people who have embraced him like one of their own, but to whom be bears virtually no resemblance