He could have bet a beer. Or maybe a steak dinner.
Instead, during an argument with Texas Governor Rick Perry during Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate in Iowa, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney extended his hand and asked Perry if he’d wager US$10,000 to settle a dispute over his healthcare record.
The high amount instantly provided Romney’s opponents with new ammunition for their charge that he is out of touch with middle-class US society as he campaigns to challenge US President Barack Obama in next year’s election.
Perry laughed off Romney’s pricey challenge: “I’m not in the betting business.”
The exchange lasted less than a minute, but Democrats and Romney’s Republican challengers pounced almost immediately.
“I want to know if he has US$10,000 in his pocket,” the spokesman for new Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich, R.C. Hammond, said after the debate.
In a statement, the Democratic National Committee said US$10,000 is almost three times more than what an average family spends on groceries in a year and more than a year’s worth of mortgage payments for a typical US home bought today.
Romney’s personal wealth and privileged background have long been seen as a potential political vulnerability. Romney disclosed earlier in the year that his personal wealth is estimated at between US$190 million and US$250 million.
“I didn’t grow up poor, and if somebody is looking for someone who’s grown up with that background, I’m not the person,” he said in the debate, adding that his father was poor at one point in his life.