DES MOINES, IOWA — Mitt Romney, a multimillionaire White House hopeful, was slammed as elitist and out of touch after offering rival Rick Perry a $10,000 bet during a heated debate.
Democrats could not contain their glee as the offhanded remark went viral on the social networking site Twitter as people chimed in with the hashtag grouping "#What10kbuys".
"He's going to own that $10,000 bet line. Nothing else he has said in this debate matters," tweeted Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
"Don't forget, in the #IowaDebate where @MittRomney casually offered a 10k bet he called a $1,500 tax break for the middle class a band-aid," Woodhouse added.
The former Massachusetts governor -- who made his massive fortune at a private equity firm and is trying to use that experience as proof of his ability to create jobs -- has struggled to portray himself as an average guy.
He drew fire in June for saying "I'm also unemployed" and chuckling at a campaign event in Florida and telling a heckler in Iowa that "corporations are people" because "everything corporations earn goes to people."
His wealth also became an issue in August when news emerged of his plans to quadruple the size of his $12 million beachfront home in San Diego, California.
Just minutes after Romney offered Perry the bet, the DNC fired off an e-mail to reporters listing what $10,000 means to the average American family: more than four months pay, nearly three times a year's groceries bills, more than a year's mortgage payments and more than a year's tuition at a public university.
"On the bright side, Romney did NOT offer Perry $10,000 to sleep with his wife," New York Times blogger Nate Silver wrote in a satirical tweet.
Romney's campaign sought to shift the focus to Perry by noting that the Texas governor would have lost the bet if he'd accepted, but it was the size of the bet -- not the substance of the debate over Romney's health care policies -- that won the day.
His Republican rivals were also quick to press the point.
"That's the language of Wall Street and not the language of Main Street, Iowa," Robert Haus, co-chairman for Perry's Iowa campaign, told reporters after the debate.
Iowa House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, Gingrich's Iowa campaign chairwoman, called the proposed bet "a little odd."
"I don't know anybody that carries that kind of money around with them," she said. "When I make a bet with somebody, it's usually for the $5 I have in my hand and we lay it down and we bet."
Photo credit: Tom LeGro