Mitt Romney's Re-Invention As Anti-Poverty Warrior

01/17/2015 02:06 pm ET | Updated Jan 29, 2015
  • Igor Bobic Associate Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

With the shake of an Etch-A-Sketch, Mitt Romney reintroduced himself to the Republican Party on Friday as a man interested in running for president because of his desire to address poverty and income inequality. One only wonders why the former governor of Massachusetts neglected to focus on the growing problems the last time he held the title of GOP standard bearer.

Addressing a gathering of Republican National Committee officials below deck of the decommissioned U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego, California, Romney ticked off three priorities crucial to what he called the "post-Obama era": making the world safer with a more muscular foreign policy, providing opportunity to all Americans, and lifting people out of poverty.

"It's a tragedy, a human tragedy, that the middle class in this country by and large doesn't believe that the future will be better than the past," he said. "We haven't seen rising incomes over decades."

"The rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before under this president," he added.

Romney stressed his years as an LDS pastor, a topic he and his campaign rarely broached in 2012, and described working "with people who are very poor to help them get help."

The governor isn't the only potential Republican presidential candidate to embrace a more populist tone as wage growth continues to lag in an accelerating economic recovery. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently lamented that "while the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top-earners, they've been a lost decade for the rest of America." Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has emphasized reconnecting with blue collar Americans. Even die-hard conservatives like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) paid lip service to the matter at the Heritage Foundation policy summit, an annual gathering of conservatives in Washington.

While he may be sincere in his pursuit to eliminate poverty, the notion that Romney would be the best candidate to lead his party in doing so is puzzling at best. The former Massachusetts governor didn't have just one misstep that allowed Democrats and Republican primary opponents to paint him as an obscenely wealthy, out-of-touch plutocrat in the 2012 election -- he had a dozen. Here's just a brief sampling:

"I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it," he said inelegantly following his victory in the Florida primary. "I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."

"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," he said before the New Hampshire primary.

"Corporations are people, my friend ... of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people," he said before the Iowa Ames straw poll.

And his infamous remarks about "47 percent" of Americans: "My job is not to worry about those people -- I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

But it's not just the gaffes. Romney embraced the Paul Ryan budget in 2012 -- a sweeping plan that, if enacted, would have instituted draconian cuts to programs affecting the poor. Millions of low-income Americans benefiting from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, as well as other retirement funding, would have been affected under a Romney presidency. Added to his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its subsidies for the poor, it's not hard to see how Romney wouldn't be vexed by some of the same problems should he ultimately decide to run for president.

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