The One Percent was real loser in South Carolina

By Rob Cox
January 23, 2012

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The real loser in Saturday’s Republican primary was the One Percent. Plutocrats fuelling up their Gulfstream 650s for the trip to Davos should take note: fellow club member Mitt Romney’s path to the presidency may be obstructed by his vast riches. The perception of lopsided wealth creation bothered voters even more and was a bigger impediment than the more carnal sins of rival Newt Gingrich. Turns out the Occupy Wall Street movement is resonating in some unlikely places.

Romney’s trouncing in South Carolina’s primary (28 percent of the vote to Gingrich’s 40 percent) will encourage further attacks on his wealth as the candidates move on to the next battleground state, Florida. Romney is clearly girding for such a fight. In his concession speech on Saturday night, he lambasted former Gingrich for having joined President Barack Obama in an “assault on free enterprise” and a demonization of prosperity. On Sunday, Romney vowed to release his tax returns later this week.

It is extraordinary to see the two leading candidates from the avowed party of big business and free enterprise arguing over excessive wealth. Gingrich’s success in attacking Romney’s riches reflects a national – if not global – anger that the rewards and opportunities of capitalism are no longer distributed fairly.

This rage against the very rich may explain why Gingrich scored so well among less affluent voters in the Palmetto State. He nabbed 40 percent of those who make less than $100,000 a year, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research and published by the New York Times. The higher the income, the better Romney scored. Taken as a whole, the numbers suggest the 99 percent overwhelmingly supported Gingrich over Romney.

The result is especially telling in South Carolina, where many Republican voters are evangelical Christians, who might be appalled by Gingrich’s marital history. But Romney’s financial issues seemed to matter more than even the accusation, days ahead of the vote, by the second of his three wives that Gingrich had sought an “open” marriage. Gingrich nabbed 44 percent of voters who described themselves as evangelical or born-again – twice Romney’s take.

Romney has not helped matters by appearing out of touch, even unsympathetic, to the financial plight of ordinary Americans. It started months ago with a mere $10,000 bet with Texas governor Rick Perry during a televised debate and continued into last week’s description of $375,000 in speaking fees as “not very much”. Added to that were revelations of income tax rate of 15 percent and investments in offshore accounts – both seized upon with Marxist precision by Romney’s rivals.

The whole Romney way makes the new global economy look lopsided – with working people getting an unfair shake. The former management consultant may be unusually haughty, but his tax strategies are all too typical of the One Percent, the people who can afford to create tax-favoured investment vehicles on the Cayman Islands.

The injustice of the One Percent’s power was the most persuasive issue raised by the Occupy movement. The vivid way the issue played out in the Republican primary of a red state should be a warning to the wealthy and powerful gathering in Davos. One session out of more than 150 at the World Economic Forum is devoted to the topic. But if South Carolina is any indication, that one is worth going to.


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I think the contrast has nothing to do with money. Mitt is trying not to blow his “eventual nomination” by being too controversial. “Obama’s not a bad guy, he just doesn’t have a clue what to do.” Mitt Romney is an updated version of Thomas E. Dewey, who should have won the 1948 election by a landslide, but instead decided to play it safe.

Posted by standsomemore | Report as abusive

That the Christian Right is beginning to realize that they have been the victim of the rapacity of their better-off Republican brethern is, simply put, huge.

Posted by Biscayne | Report as abusive

The points already made in this article are the most important and obvious conclusions to draw from these data (Romney says he earned his money by working hard, which I partially believe although I find it hard to imagine how it’s physically possible for him to work over 500 times harder than I do); but as an aside:

> “Gingrich scored so well among less affluent voters in the Palmetto State. He nabbed 40 percent of those who make less than $100,000 a year”

> “Gingrich nabbed 44 percent of voters who described themselves as evangelical or born-again”

The difference between these two proportions is as interesting as the similarity. It appears that for a small but significant minority of “evangelical or born-again” voters in South Carolina, a candidate’s religious affiliation is still the most important factor in deciding who to vote for. This information is a potentially interesting predictor for the presidential election. Due to this prejudice, Romney must be better than Gingrich or Obama by 5-10% with his message and perceived personal record, just to equal them in votes…

Posted by matthewslyman | Report as abusive

The one percent will always lose when the truth is told the people. The biggest fool will understand that in an economy as bad and hard as ours, people making millions of dollars shouldn’t be paying a smaller percentage in taxes than people struggling to survive. Join the conversation that is going on @ the first website that has provided a platform for citizens to speak with one loud voice that will be difficult to ignore.

Posted by NewtPenn | Report as abusive

I’m tired about all the anger directed at the so-called one percent. The real one percent in the US is Congress. Every tax break, special preference item and tax incentive used by those with pots of money was placed in the tax code by congressional action. If we want to really address the moral failings of the one percent, we should replace the entire membership of both houses of congress, and stop hyperventilating about those who benefit from congressionally authorized accounting tricks

Posted by OnkelMax | Report as abusive