12/12/2011 10:22 am ET

Mitt Romney Recalls Frugal Life As A Mormon Missionary In France

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, under fire for being "out of touch" after offering a $10,000 bet to rival Rick Perry over the weekend, is reminding primary voters that he wasn't always worth upwards of $250 million.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire over the weekend, Romney recounted serving as a Mormon missionary in France as a young adult in the 1960s. He scraped by on around $110 a month and lived in places that likely held little resemblance to the extravagant houses he now owns more than 40 years later.

"A number of the apartments I lived in when I lived there didn't have toilets," Romney said. "We had instead the little pads on the ground, OK? You know how that works, all right. There was a chain behind you with a bucket -- it was a bucket affair. I had not experienced one of those in the United States."

"You're not living high on the hog at that level," he continued. "If we were lucky, we actually bought a hose and we stuck it on the sink, and we'd hold there with the hose and the big bucket underneath us in the kitchen and wash ourselves that way. ... And so, I lived in a way that people of lower-middle income in France lived and said to myself, 'Wow, I sure am lucky to have been born in the United States of America.'"

While the Romney campaign has claimed that the recent turn to a more personal tone is not part of a "conscious effort" to humanize their candidate, Politico points out that he rarely takes the opportunity to discuss his Mormonism publicly. The last time Romney addressed his religion broadly was in a high-profile speech in December 2007.

Romney has taken repeated criticism for his supposedly mechanical demeanor. A recent article in the New York Times Magazine titled "Building a Better Mitt Romney-Bot" underscored some of the former Massachusetts governor's struggles with appealing to voters in casual settings. Over the weekend, Perry appeared to poke at the over-programmed Romney narrative, saying voters "aren't looking for a robot" in response to a question about his mounting list of gaffes.

On Monday, Romney also took a chance to get in a shot at current GOP primary frontrunner Newt Gingrich for his previous work for mortgage loan giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the handsome compensation he received for doing it.

"[He was] working for Freddie Mac, getting paid $1.6 million -- by the way, a very different number than he said in the first debate. He said $300,000, and he was there as a historian. That would make him the highest paid historian in history," Romney said, telling Fox News he believed Gingrich was a K Street lobbyist and that he should return the money he took from Fannie and Freddie.