Gov. Mitt Romney entering his La Jolla, Calif. beach house, Aug. 28, 2008.
Gov. Mitt Romney entering his La Jolla, Calif. beach house, Aug. 28, 2008. DENIS POROY/AP
Fortunately for Mitt Romney, there are a fair number of Republican voters who will understand immediately his desire to knock down his $12 million La Jolla, Calif. beach house in order to build something more than three times its size, as reported by the San Diego Union Tribune.
Unfortunately for the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, there are likely even more Republican voters with a populist streak. They're the ones who may feel that a candidate who can tear down a 3,009 square foot house to replace it with one that's 11,062 square feet may not quite understand their daily concerns.
Coming fresh on the heels of his "Corporations are people, my friend" response to a heckler in Iowa, the news about the house is probably not what his image makers were hoping for, to say the least.
The public perception of Romney was already that of a superwealthy candidate lacking the common touch, who indeed is viewed sometimes as out of touch. And he is definitely superrich. He spent $42.3 million on his failed presidential bid in 2008. He also owns another home, a $10 million spread on a New Hampshire lake.
The news about the Romney teardown will only confirm that sense of the former Massachusetts governor that many voters have, that of a very rich former corporate chieftain.
The house story won't do Romney any favors in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. It comes as he faces the significant challenge posed by the superfolksy Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Part of Perry's great appeal is how easily he connects with average people.
At least one of Romney's rivals for the Republican nomination, Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who is more accurately a past competitor since he dropped out of the race, showed that he was willing to play the populist card against Romney.
In the Ames, Iowa debate, Pawlenty made a joke whose punchline alluded to Romney's impressive real estate. The La Jolla house situation provides Romney's remaining rivals another punchline.
Maybe Romney can turn this La Jolla house into a political positive. He could always say it was his attempt to do his part to kick start the housing industry.