"Not very much." With those three words, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney identified one of the really big mountains he must climb if he is to go from contender to occupant of the Oval Office.

"Not very much."


With those three words, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney identified one of the really big mountains he must climb if he is to go from contender to occupant of the Oval Office.


That's because "not very much" to Mitt Romney amounts to $374,327.62, which is what he earned in speaking fees in one year between February 2010 and February 2011. Unfortunately for Romney, most of the rest of Planet Earth views his "not very much" - the words he used to describe that income recently, which he earned in addition to his substantial investment portfolio that pegs his net worth at a reported $200 million plus - as a veritable fortune. Call that vast majority of American voters the 99 percent.


Perhaps it would be no big deal if Romney weren't trying to pass himself off as a regular guy to curry favor with that 99 percent, which is exactly what he's doing when he says things like this: "There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip." Not only does nobody believe that, but he invites ridicule from the likes of a Newt Gingrich, who quite rightly asks, "Who's he kidding?"


In fact Mitt Romney is a son of advantage and privilege - of a CEO, presidential contender and former governor of a father - who did not and never had to pick himself by his own bootstraps. He shouldn't pretend to be something he's not, and just makes himself look silly when he does. That is not to discount his own accomplishments, which are significant as a former governor of Massachusetts and co-founder of Bain Capital.


And that's fine, as one trusts most Americans aren't looking for an Average Joe president. They want - and should want - an exceptional, successful person. But from this vantage they also want someone who gets it, who appreciates their challenges, who isn't a fake.


Readers may remember the first President George Bush, who garnered headlines when he walked into a supermarket while campaigning for his reelection in 1992 and expressed surprise at the barcode scanner in use at the checkout, as apparently he'd not seen one before. It confirmed suspicions that he was out of touch with the lives of most Americans. And ultimately he would lose to the upstart Bill Clinton.


It should serve as a lesson for Romney, whose instincts in the early going have been off the mark in this regard, his frontrunner status notwithstanding.


Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.