The GOP Learns to Love Class Warfare

For the new class warriors of the Republican primary, the politics of resentment comes not so much from resentment of other people's  wealth as much as resentment of other people's poll rankings.

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For the new class warriors of the Republican primary, the politics of resentment comes not so much from resentment of other people's  wealth as much as resentment of other people's poll rankings. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum are all accusing each other of being disconnected from regular middle-class American voters because of their luxury lifestyles. And conservatives are cringing: How can Republicans say President Obama wants to punish success if their own presidential candidates are asking voters to punish the success of the frontrunners?

The Washington Times' Seth McLaughlin points out that all these candidates implying they hate rich people are actually rich people:
  • Michele Bachmann's attacking Gingrich because "His offices are on the Rodeo Drive of Washington called K Street." Gingrich, Bachmann says, is a "crony capitalist" who sold his Washington connections to "bankroll his lavish lifestyle." Her net worth is between $1.3 million and $2.8 million.
  • Rick Santorum emailed supporters in reference to Romney's attempted $10,000 bet with Rick Perry at Saturday's debate, saying, "Mitt Romney is a multimillionaire former venture capitalist, so we understand that $10,000 might not be a lot of money to him. But it is to us, and we are sure it is to most of you." Santorum, relatively impoverished compared to his rivals, has a net worth between $880,000 and $1.9 million.
  • Rick Perry told Iowa Public Television in reference to Romney's infamous bet, "I’m kind of like, holy mackerel, that’s just a lot of money for most people, and I guess not for Mitt." His net worth is at least $1.1 million.
  • Jon Huntsman's campaign saw the potential of Romney's bet and quickly bought It features a photo of Romney from his days as a venture capitalist in the 1980s with money hanging out of his suit. Huntsman's net worth is between $16 million and $71 million.
  • After Romney accused Newt Gingrich of selling influence, Gingrich shot back, "I would just say that if Gov. Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain that I would be glad to then listen to him. I’ll bet you $10, not $10,000… that he won’t take the offer." He's worth at least $6.7 million.
  • Mitt Romney noted Gingrich's habit of buying fancy jewelry for his wife to CBS News, saying, "If you have a half-a-million-dollar purchase from Tiffany’s, you’re not a middle-class American." He used the line with Fox News' Sean Hannity, too, saying, "As for [Gingrich] trying to reference a $10,000 rhetorical bet, the Speaker, as I recall, probably shouldn't be talking about that given a $500,000 bill at Tiffany's." In Iowa Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal's Danny Yadron and Patrick O'Connor report, Romney said Gingrich was a "very wealthy man." Romney is too. His net worth is between $190 million and$250 million.

All of the candidates' love of class warfare is entertaining given how new it is -- in September, Gingrich lamented that "the president has chosen a path of political gamesmanship and class warfare," while Santourm just this week promised, "You’ll never hear the word ‘class’ come out of my mouth... Classes? We specifically rejected that. Look in the Constitution. No titles of nobility." But Romney's is the funniest. Romney is the richest candidate, and he made his money buying and selling companies to enrich investors -- not to create jobs, as his former colleagues told the Los Angeles Times. That past explains why two months ago Romney said of the Occupy Wall Street protests, "I think it’s dangerous, this class warfare," National Journal's Sarah B. Boxer reported. All clear now, it seems. But Romney had better hope the pals he's dining with in Manhattan Thursday don't like to shop at Tiffany's. Here's his not-so-middle-class-American schedule for the day, as reported by the New York Daily News' Jonathan Lemire:

  • Breakfast: At Cipriani 42nd St., 80 people co-hosted the $2,500 per person meal with the former governor. Attendees included Jets owner Woody Johnson, former Goldman Sachs chief John Whitehead, and hedge fund manager John Paulson.
  • Lunch: At the Waldorf-Astoria, hosted by Jimmy Lee, vice-chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase.
  • Dinner: Private meal hosted by Steve Schwarzman, founder of Blackstone, and attended by financial guys like former Securities and Exchange Committee chair Richard Breeden.
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