It's as predictable as vultures at a carcass. When a wealthy Republican is running for office, the press will make his wealth a handicap. Recall that when George H. W. Bush was running in 1988, he was derided as a "preppy." George W. Bush was the undeserving scion of the ruling class. We were told never mind that he had succeeded in business on his own. Though John McCain had been a fixture on the national stage since 1980, no one had paid much attention to his wealth until he was the Republican nominee, at which point his many houses suddenly became a matter of profound national importance.
Democrats, of course, are permitted to be rich without fear of undue scrutiny. John F. Kennedy was wealthier than Mitt Romney, or would have been had he lived to collect his inheritance. Lyndon B. Johnson was born poor and died very rich. He didn't earn his money in the private sector. He used political influence to first purchase and then maintain monopolistic radio licenses in his wife's name.
There wasn't much fuss about John Kerry's great wealth in 2004. Kerry didn't earn his fortune either but secured it through two advantageous marriages. Teresa Heinz Kerry is rumored to be in the billionaires' club. Good for her. Though, she didn't earn it either, but rather married the heir of the ketchup fortune. John Kerry was an advocate of raising taxes on the rich, but he, like Warren Buffett, declined to contribute more than required to Uncle Sam. In fact, he was caught mooring his yacht in Rhode Island so as to avoid Massachusetts' taxes. Oh, and before he married Teresa Heinz, there were a number of years when Sen. Kerry donated nothing at all to charity.
Now it's Romney's turn, thanks not just to the press but to Newt Gingrich, who gleefully mouths every left-wing jibe that proves handy. In Florida, he disparaged Romney as a Swiss-bank-account-holding, "automatic $20 million a year" guy. Gingrich, who earned his own not inconsiderable fortune (Tiffany's account anyone?) by selling influence, is joined in his dismay at Romney's larger fortune by other exceedingly wealthy men. NBCs Brian Williams (annual salary: $13 million) shared the news about Romney's tax returns this way: "He did it to help stop the questions about his wealth, but in releasing his taxes, he reveals what most Americans will regard as unimaginable wealth...."