Mitt Romney was accused of being out of touch with working-class Americans last weekend, after the Republican presidential candidate tried to make an impromptu $10 000 bet during a television debate.
The slip, at a time of high unemployment and a growing poverty divide, could damage Romney three weeks before the first of the Republican contests in Iowa.
His critics said the issue was not that he offered the bet, but the size of it, consolidating Romney’s reputation as a very rich man seeking to buy his way to power.
The gaffe came when a rival candidate, Texas governor Rick Perry, claimed Romney had supported national healthcare reform in a passage in his book that was excised from the paperback edition. Romney, who brought in healthcare reform in Massachusetts that was similar to Barack Obama’s, in a move unpopular with conservatives, denied the passage had been in the first edition.
“Rick, I’ll tell you what: 10 000 bucks? Ten thousand bet?” Romney said, extending his hand to shake. Perry declined.
Bill Burton, who is helping to organise Obama’s re-election campaign, wrote on Twitter: “Not a lot of 99%-ers are out there making $10 000 bets.”
Polls show that two-thirds of Republicans are undecided on who to support. Last Friday a poll gave Newt Gingrich double-digit leads in South Carolina and Florida.
Gingrich, as frontrunner, was the main target in last Saturday night’s debate in Des Moines, Iowa. During the debate Gingrich stood by his controversial statement on Friday that the Palestinians were an invented people. “These people are terrorists,” he said. “They teach terrorism in their schools.”
Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian Authority official, said: “America is already suffering from criticism of not being impartial. Such an extreme position from a presidential candidate only adds to this perception.” —