Romney’s Losing Bet

It’s no secret to women that men can have some pretty annoying traits. And to be perfectly honest, it’s really no secret to men either, although it’s tough to get us to take ownership of them.

When Mitt Romney, in the December 10th Republican debate, shoved out his hand toward Rick Perry and with that icy smile of his said, “I’ll bet you ten thousand dollars,” he did his version of the cock of the walk, and in so doing, I believe, shot himself in the foot.

While Romney would never admit to it now, his body language and his tone was that of a bully. And in bad economic times a bully of the worst kind, one who uses his great personal wealth to bully others. One day later he was papering over his petulant taunt by saying, “It’s like when two buddies bet each other a million bucks, it’s not meant seriously.” Anyone watching Romney during that debate knows that cover up is a lie.

For the average American to make $10,000 takes approximately three months. Not a dollar amount a sane member of the “99 percent” is going to wager. The very act of betting that amount casts Romney as out-of-touch with the average voter. People can overlook a candidate having much greater wealth, but they  don’t like to have that fact shoved in their face or the face of an opponent.

Men, are particularly uncomfortable with a rich male throwing down the money card. From a gut standpoint they would have been more comfortable if Romney had taken off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and threatened to punch Rick Perry in that square jaw of his. (That might have helped Romney’s poll numbers get beyond 25%.)

But the average guy is always looking for a level playing field and when Romney throws around money by wagering “ten thousand bucks,” it emasculates the 99% of men out there who don’t have anywhere near that kind of money to wave in another man’s face.

So in male speak, Romney becomes the worst kind of man to other men; one who is willing to use his great wealth (estimated at well over $200 million) to taunt other men. It’s the fiscal equivalent of a man with 22-inch biceps telling another man, “How would you like me to pick you up and shake you like a rag doll?”

But interestingly enough, the wealth bully is even more intimidating to men because it reminds them that they are not as successful as they had hoped and now their under the thumb of men who are far richer than they could ever hope to be.

As for women, they find this behavior equally obnoxious but in a different way. Women, as a general rule, are turned off by men playing the cock of the walk. Boys bullying boys, pushing, shoving, grunting, is something women have witnessed their whole lives and it leaves them feeling no empathy with the bully.

Small acts make a big difference in campaigns. In 1992, President Bush senior in a debate with Bill Clinton famously looked at his watch, something that said to the average voter, “I have more important things to do than come before you and defend my performance as president.” Rick Lazio in his 2000 New York Senate race against Hillary Clinton walked over and put his arm over Hillary during their debate in a manner that appeared to be physically intimidating. It was the beginning of the end of his campaign.

I’m guessing that Mitt’s wager will be replayed a thousand and one times. Rick Perry has already used the clip in an ad to attack him and the Jon Huntsman campaign bought the web address, before Saturday’s debate had ended. Given the money that Romney has poured into his campaign, that $10,000 bet might end up costing him millions.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.

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