It was probably something he fired off without even thinking, the kind of casual remark that someone like GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney makes as a matter of course:
RICK PERRY: I'm listenin' to you, Mitt, and I'm hearin' you say all the right things. But I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts which should be the model for the country. And I know it came out of— of the— the reprint of the book. But, you know, I'm just sayin', you were for individual mandates, my friend.
MITT ROMNEY: You know what? You've raised that before, Rick. And— you're simply wrong.
RICK PERRY: It— it— it was true then. It's true now.
MITT ROMNEY: That— now, this— Rick, I'll— I'll tell you what. 10,000 bucks— $10,000 bet?
Perry, of course, declined (saying "I'm not a betting man"), but immediately after the Dec. 10 Republican debate in Iowa, pundits went wild. Romney's bet showed, they said, how out-of-touch he is with normal Americans, that he can so blithely gamble more money on a single wager than the average household grosses in two-and-a-half months. It also fit perfectly into the narrative of Romney-as-callous-zillionaire, one of his greatest weaknesses.
The question is, will the $10,000 bet make for a good attack line? That's what we wanted to find out. Our first order of business was seeing how familiar people were with the exchange—after all, most Americans don't spend their Saturday nights home watching Republican primary debates. But constant repetition in the media must have had an effect.
Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU. 12/15-18. Registered voters. MoE ±3.1% (no trendlines):
Q: Have you heard about the $10,000 bet Mitt Romney challenged Rick Perry to in last week’s Republican Presidential debate?
I have to admit I was quite surprised at just how high these numbers are—another sign that presidential primaries have truly become much more nationalized. That gave us a nice hefty sample, though, so our next question asked 72 percent who had heard about the bet what they thought of it:
Q: Did Romney’s bet make you more or less likely to vote for him next year, or did it not make a difference either way?
More Likely: 7
Less Likely: 26
No Difference: 67
Perhaps it's not a huge game-changer, but it does seem like the traditional media was right in calling this a negative for Romney. Interestingly, there aren't huge spreads between how Republicans and Democrats feel about this issue, and there's even less daylight between liberals and conservatives: For about a quarter of the public, regardless of party or ideology, the Romney bet is a turn off. Most of the rest don't care, and a very tiny minority of swaggering jerks think even more highly of Mitt now. (Who are these people?)
These numbers, of course, come before a single attack ad has been aired. It may seem like a small or even irrelevant detail, when there are great policy issues at stake. But elections are decided at least as much (if not moreso) based on how people feel about the candidates, not their views on the issues. And if Romney's flippant attitudes about large sums of money damage voters' perceptions of him, so much the better for Barack Obama's reelection chances.
Our usual approval numbers are below. Also, this is our last poll of the year, as the next two weeks are Christmas and New Year's (and we don't poll on holidays). We'll be back in early January. And remember, you can find out complete polling archive here.