Why Romney and Obama are both out of touch

Let's settle this now so we can move on to something more important: The odds of a Joe Sixpack residing in the White House after the November elections are zero.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 6, 2012 8:55AM

By Rick Newman

 

It's easy to imagine the two presidential candidates on a playground.

 

"You're out of touch," Mitt Romney taunts President Barack Obama.

 

"No, you're out of touch," Obama retorts.

 

"No, you're out of touch."

 

"No, you're out of touch."

 

"No . . . "

 

This is essentially the dialogue that's emerging between the two presidential campaigns. Romney, the Republican front-runner, has been saying in speeches that "flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believers" has made Obama oblivious to the needs and struggles of ordinary Americans.

 

Obama's aides eagerly point to Romney gaffes about closing factories, firing people and not caring about the unemployed as ample evidence that Romney, not Obama, is the one lacking the common touch.

 

Let's settle this now, so we can move on to something more important: Both men are out of touch. The odds of a Joe Sixpack residing in the White House after the November elections are zero.

 

Obama can at least claim humble beginnings, but he's also a product of Harvard Law School who has spent most of his professional life as an academic or politician. As an adult, nearly everything has gone his way. For the last three years, he's been living in an isolated mansion, attended to by a staff of dozens, with a household budget that's effectively unlimited.

 

Mitt Romney is the scion of an industrial and political titan who has a Harvard Law degree of his own, and a Harvard MBA to trump it. A 20-year career as an elite private-equity mogul made Romney a multimillionaire who probably wouldn't know the price of gas unless one of his drivers told him what it is.

 

Romney and Obama have very different backgrounds, but there's one important thing they have in common: Neither man had to hustle and make sacrifices to survive the worst recession in decades. They've heard about the recession, but they haven't lived it.

 

Obama reads letters that struggling Americans send to the White House, and perhaps he occasionally hears from old basketball chums or childhood pals who have been waylaid by the tough economy. Romney counsels struggling Mormons from time to time, and who knows, maybe he chats occasionally with the gardener or the maid about the challenges they face in their personal lives. But neither man feels the same anxiety and stress as millions of Americans who are worried about their future and may not even know how they're going to pay the rent next month.

 

Instead of asking whether the two presidential candidates are out of touch, maybe we should ask: Does it matter?

 

Every voter obviously wants to elect a candidate with like-minded values. But expecting a presidential candidate to have ordinary sensibilities might be expecting too much. Presidential candidates are not ordinary people, by any definition. They have grandiose ambitions that probably require them to be detached from reality to start with. They spend months, or even years, shuffling between indistinct towns, giving the same stale speech to strangers they hope will take a personal liking to them.

 

The only real people they ever meet are at rope lines and staged events (and even some of those people aren't exactly real). Other people pay for everything. The only thing about running for president that might approximate real life is running out of money, winding down the adventure and having to figure out what to do next. The most likeable candidate is often one who's no longer running.

 

If we weren't so fixated on liking our candidates, maybe we'd do a better job of assessing their qualifications and researching their proposals, like a sports team trading for a needed player or a business hiring a key specialist. The American president is never going to be the guy next door, futzing over his lawnmower or overcooking burgers on the grill. Maybe we should be happy about that.

 

Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success, to be published in May. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

 

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7Comments
Apr 9, 2012 9:02AM
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As long as we have "rulers" from elite private schools we will continue to have an out of touch problem.  These institutions come up with grand ideas which hurt all of us.  Outsourcing.  Moving manufacturing overseas and having us become the service and consuming society.  Where did that notion get us?  Becoming the world's policeman!  Doing away with the draft so that only poor kids from the hinterlands get killed in wars dreamed up by the elites.  De-regulation!  Starving the beast and lower taxes to limit if not eliminate entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Doing away with shop courses and directing everyone to go to college.  The list of crap imposed upon us by think tanks from elite colleges is endless and for the most part failed.
Apr 7, 2012 12:52PM
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Why are they out of touch? Easy question. They're politicians.
Apr 6, 2012 6:19PM
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I totally agree with the idea that both the Republican and Democratic nominees for president are out of touch with the 99% of us.  Both men cannot imagine politics that serves the People rather than the rich, the corporations, the lobbyists.  Obama claims the Democrats serve the people but look at his appointees for high office--mostly rich people often from Wall Street.  Well, Mitt you ARE WALL Street.

 

Whatever happened to Abe Lincoln's a government OF the People, BY the People and FOR the People shall not perish from the Earth?

 

I am voting Green Party this year for Dr. Jill Stein.  The Democrats and Republicans both serve the same rich class and forget those of us who are middle and working class.

Apr 8, 2012 8:26AM
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The sad thing is at this time there is no candidate who can help us out Repubs or Dems. Then there is the tea party OMG! If we revolt the man will come and take you away. We have trusted our leaders to do the right things and we 99% never will have a say because all good ideas get shot down when Big Money gets involved
Apr 9, 2012 11:53AM
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I'm not sure that being "in touch" is a required qualification for the leader of the country. Do we really want the guy who bought too much house and who is underwater on his mortgage running the economy? He would definitely be "in touch" but his judgement is no better for that.

I suggest that the job of the federal government is to provide an infrastructure which gives the general population opportunities to improve their standard of living and to protect the domestic arena from the hostile activities of other nations. The leader capable of doing this needs to envision something beyond the status quo and of course he or she needs to be able to convince the country to adopt the same vision.

I don't think that our current system of selecting leaders is likely to give us this person.

Apr 9, 2012 11:29AM
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I totally agree with the idea that both the Republican and Democratic nominees for president are out of touch with the 99% of us. Both men cannot imagine politics that serves the People rather than the rich, the corporations, the lobbyists. Obama claims the Democrats serve the people but look at his appointees for high office--mostly rich people often from Wall Street. Well, Mitt you ARE WALL Street.

I agree with JG1991.  We probably haven't had a president who was truly in touch with ordinary people since Harry Truman. 

 

Pension Pro makes some good points, too. I slightly disagree with him about the draft, because very few elites ever served in the military, even when we had a draft. I do think that mandatory universal service to our country (military or non-military) would be a good thing and would help equalize our society.

Apr 6, 2012 12:06PM
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The American people are responsible for our country. If you don't like the way it's run revolt. A good revolution will clean out bad government and make that government more responsible to the people. I do believe that before we solve our economic problems we're going to have that revolt.
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