Romney's $10 000 bet highlights wealth
Washington - He could have bet a beer. Or maybe a steak dinner.
But during an argument with Rick Perry during Saturday night's Republican presidential debate in Iowa, Mitt Romney extended his hand and asked the Texas governor if he'd wager $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's out of touch with middle-class America as he campaigns to challenge 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 $10 000 in his pocket," the spokesperson for new Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich, RC Hammond, said after the debate.
In a statement, the Democratic National Committee said $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 the typical American home purchased today.
Romney's personal wealth and privileged background have long been seen as a potential political vulnerability. He's the son of a former governor and made a fortune leading a venture capital company in Massachusetts. Romney disclosed earlier in the year that his personal wealth is estimated at between $190m and $250m.
But in recent months he's made a point of courting middle-class America.
"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," Romney said during the debate, noting that his father was poor at one point in his life. "They made sure we had jobs when we were growing up. They made sure we didn't spend money foolishly."