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Who's the rich guy? Obama, Romney duel over status

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 10 2012 4:46 p.m. MDT

And then there are some of the video clips circulating on YouTube: Romney's proposed $10,000 bet to Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a debate in December; his declaration in January, discussing health insurance providers, that he likes "being able to fire people who provide services to me," and more recently his comment in February that he's "not concerned about the very poor" because they have an "ample safety net."

Romney's wealth gained more attention last month when Politico reported that planned renovations to his San Diego-area oceanside home included a four-vehicle garage with an "elevator lift" to transport vehicles between floors.

Romney, focusing ever more attention on Obama, has made a concerted push to paint the president as a detached liberal who doesn't fully grasp the depths of the nation's economic woes. Obama, who has written two best-selling books and taught law at the University of Chicago School of Law, is portrayed as an enthusiastic supporter of government instead of private enterprise.

In one dig, Romney calls Obama a "nice guy ... who spent too much time at Harvard" — though Romney himself earned a joint JD/MBA at Harvard, spending more time there than Obama. Romney also says the president suffers from "years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believers telling you that you're great and doing a great job."

Both would be considered wealthy by any standard. Romney's campaign has estimated that he is paying more than $6.2 million in taxes on $45 million in income for the past two years. Obama and his wife, Michelle, reported income of $1.73 million last year, mostly from books he's written, and they paid more than $450,000 in federal taxes.

Both Romney and Obama have made appeals to Americans by highlighting more routine endeavors: Obama ventured into an Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day to down a pint of Guinness and frequently talks about his devotion to basketball and other sports. Romney, whom aides describe as a penny-pincher, has used Twitter to remind voters about flying Southwest Airlines and grabbing lunch at Subway. In January, one of Romney's sons circulated a photo of his dad doing his own laundry.

Obama's team points to polls showing the president with favorable personal approval ratings and relatively high marks when respondents are asked whether he can relate to their problems. A poll released Tuesday by The Washington Post and ABC News found Obama with a double-digit lead over Romney, 49-37, when adults were asked who better understands their economic problems. About half of the respondents, 52 percent, said unfairness in the economic system favoring the wealthy represented a bigger problem for the country than over-regulation of the free market system, chosen by 37 percent.

Others, however, caution that Obama's populist message can only take him so far, especially with unaligned voters critical in a close election.

Matt Bennett, a former White House aide under Bill Clinton and vice president of Third Way, a Democratic-centrist group, pointed to polling released Monday by his organization that found many independent voters more focused on a presidential candidate emphasizing the increasing of opportunity instead of reducing income inequality.

"Tax fairness is just not their biggest concern and arguments about fairness didn't answer their primary economic worries," Bennett said. "What swing voters want to hear is an optimistic vision for putting the American economy back on top."

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