CNN continued to hype the possible negative implications of Mitt Romney's "rich guy image" on Monday evening, even though a new poll reports 71 percent of Americans said Romney's wealth is "not a major factor" in their presidential decision.
The network blared such headlines as "Is his [Romney's] big fortune a big political liability?" and "Wealth Will Be an Issue in 2012." CNN correspondent Joe Johns ran yet another segment on the possibility that Romney's wealthy image could hurt him in the November elections. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
When Romney took his family on vacation for Easter at an expensive California beach house, CNN jumped on the story. "Mitt Romney tries for a little rest and relaxation at his beachfront home out in California, but taking a little bit more heat for his rich guy image," noted Wolf Blitzer.
John King questioned the criticisms of the vacation, then added "But there's no escaping he's wealthy," as if the candidate's wealth could still be an albatross around the neck of his campaign. He proceeded to compare the net worth of President Obama and Romney, noting that although Obama is a millionaire he is "certainly not in Romney's league."
And King also showed skepticism over Romney's tax forms. "Now, Governor Romney has released some tax returns, but there's still a lot we don't know about his assets," King reported.
CNN tied the "wealth" narrative in with President Obama pushing for the Buffett Rule, legislation that will tax millionaires no less than 30 percent. CNN's Jessica Yellin presented some White House spin of her own by touting "Could you imagine campaign ads saying they [Republicans] voted with the one percent?"
She followed up that quip with a clip of Mitt Romney explaining his own low tax rate. CNN reported polls showing the majority of Americans supporting the Buffett Rule.
A transcript of the various segments, which began airing at 4:00 p.m. on The Situation Room on April 9, is as follows:
WOLF BLITZER: Happening now, Mitt Romney tries to enjoy some regular guy moments, but his rich guy image gets in the way.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney tries for a little rest and relaxation at his beachfront home out in California, but taking a little bit more heat for his rich guy image.
JOE JOHNS, CNN senior correspondent: Well Wolf, all it took was one holiday visit to the beach and a few family pictures of the campaign front-runner to open up a whole new set of questions about how much Romney, with all his money, appeals to the regular guy, or even how much he has to.
JOHNS (voice-over): Over the Easter weekend, hanging out with his family, Mitt Romney appeared on the beach in La Jolla, California, with a boogie board, looking like a surfer dude. He talked about it Monday in a radio interview.
MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: We had 11 of our grandkids staying with us and three of my boys and three of their – of course, their spouses. And we had the Easter egg roll over at the neighbor's lawn. He has a big lawn we use. And we made Easter eggs. We went swimming and surfing in the water. We're in California. It's absolutely delightful.
JOHNS: His campaign has worked hard to create glimpses of Romney as a regular guy. The problem is, he's not. He's worth $200 million. He has a home here in La Jolla that's set for renovation after the campaign and another multimillion-dollar home in New Hampshire. Many Republicans don't begrudge him any of that, but say he has to be authentic about it.
JOHN KING USA
JOHN KING: Taxes and spending are always issues in presidential politics, and this year no exception. But it's also clear, and reinforced just today, that wealth will also be an issue.
President Obama prefers to frame it as a fairness question and will spend time this week, starting tomorrow, promoting what he calls the Buffett rule, a requirement that families making more than a million dollars a year should pay at least as big a share of their income in taxes as the middle class, and Team Obama believes focusing on the Buffett rule also helps them exploit what we might call the Romney rule. "So what's Romney hiding?" @BarackObama tweeted last week, asking people to tweet @MittRomney to demand he release his tax returns.
Now, Governor Romney has released some tax returns, but there's still a lot we don't know about his assets. Team Obama says voters deserve full disclosure. The truth is the pressure is about much more than that, and it's borrowed from a playbook Republicans have used before.
Remember these guys? Democratic nominees Al Gore and John Kerry. They lost competitive elections, one of them very, very, very competitive, in part because Republicans spent a lot of time suggesting they just weren't like you: too elitist, they said; too distant; too different; maybe too affluent. Romney on this question has helped the Democratic cause some.
ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
BALDWIN: All right. We all know Mitt Romney is a rich man, it's just a fact. But he has been criticized in this campaign as being out of touch with the average American. And, well, there are some new photos, they were released today from the campaign, doing not so much to tamp down those attacks. So, check it out.
Here he is with his family. This was Easter, at his 3,000 square foot Spanish style home along San Diego's beautiful La Jolla beach. Price tag a cool $12 million. All the while President Obama spends the week making the Buffet rule, taxing the wealthy more, the centerpiece of his re-election campaign. So, is the Romney campaign tone deaf or is he just trying to give voters an image inside Mitt Romney's real life, his family life?