John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and other presidents found ways to overcome the political downside of great wealth. Romney, however, has fueled impressions with a series of gaffes that he is out of touch. He challenged former rival Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet, told a crowd in Detroit that his wife drives two Cadillacs and mentioned at the Daytona 500 that some friends owned NASCAR teams.
Ann Romney aggravated matters in a Fox News interview this week while explaining how her ordeals with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer had heightened her compassion. "I don't even consider myself wealthy," she said in passing.
Still, Romney's career as an investment executive can be a key asset, even in Blount County. Sara Holloway, who recently retired as business manager at a nursing home, likes Santorum but might vote for Romney in Alabama's primary.
"I like the fact that he was a businessman," she said as she left a hair salon in Oneonta. "That's what government is. It's a business, and he's been very successful."
Across town at the Cato clothing store, Sherry Glass agreed — up to a point.
"There's not really any of them that I think is that good," said Glass, 58, who handles payroll for a quarry blasting company in Birmingham. "One that sticks out, I guess, is Romney."
Glass' main hesitation about Romney was similar to that of her Blount County neighbors'. "He's a very rich guy that is just out of touch with what our common everyday people see," she said.