This post from Josh Marshall has the beginnings of an answer to a question that has genuinely been bothering me. Mitt Romney has been running for president pretty much nonstop since at least 2006. He has a staff of highly paid political operatives. And in all that time, nobody said “Hey, Mitt, maybe you should close those secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands?” It should be right there on every politician’s checklist, between “quietly resign from whites-only country clubs” and “fire the nanny you’ve been paying under the table.” Particularly if the central theme of your campaign is American exceptionalism.
One answer for this is that Mitt Romney is just a stunningly bad politician. He’s like the opposite of Bill Clinton – I’m not sure he even feels his own pain. I’m not making any moral judgment here, I’m just saying on that critical poll question of “cares about people like you and me” Romney doesn’t even register. All the more reason to pay attention to the cosmetic issues, like parking your money in offshore tax havens. I’m sure it might have increased his tax bills for a few years but good lord he could afford it.
Josh Marshall very wisely suggests the other reason: that Romney and the people around him, including many well-off journalists, just don’t understand how toxic this is. To people at a certain socioeconomic level, moving your money around different banks in different countries is a mundane part of life, no more controversial than shopping for bargains at different outlet malls. To most people outside that circle, banking in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland is something Bond villains do. The weird thing is that Romney is paying vast amounts of money to political consultants who didn’t see this coming. You just can’t get good help these days.