He didn’t quantify the amount himself, but then he doesn’t have to. The DNC’s ad team will do it for him when they pluck this soundbite a few months from now.

“What’s the effective rate I’ve been paying? It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,” Romney, a GOP presidential candidate, said. “My last 10 years, I’ve — my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past rather than ordinary income or rather than earned annual income. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. And then I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.”…

Romney collected more than $360,000 in speaking fees from such companies as Barclay’s Bank and Goldentree Asset Management over a 12-month period ending last year, according to his financial disclosure filing.

Like Philip Klein and Ace, I don’t understand how he isn’t more attuned to his own rhetoric when talking about wealth. He knows the left is going to demagogue him for it; in virtually every other aspect of the campaign, he’s exhaustively prepared and disciplined. His critics were unfair in knocking him for saying he likes being able to fire people, but he has to realize that talking about “firing” anyone, in whatever context, is going to get their attention as part of an attack on Bain’s layoffs. Same here: Obviously he was speaking relatively when he said he doesn’t earn “much” from speaking fees, but even in that context, the takeaway is, “How much must this guy earn that $360,000 a year qualifies as ‘not very much’?” More from Klein:

Romney actually earned $374,327.62 from speaking fees in 2010 and early 2011, according to financial disclosure forms released earlier this year. That alone would put him among the top few percent of taxpayers. Of course, the point Romney was trying to make was a technical accounting one — relative to his investment income, the speaking fees aren’t very big, which drives down his effective tax rate. I get it. But statements like this are just gold to President Obama, who hopes to make Romney a poster child for his class warfare reelection strategy. A comment like this, in the middle of January, isn’t likely to be on voters’ minds in November. But if Romney continues his pattern of making such statements, it will become a huge problem should he be the nominee.

If he’s trying to tamp down curiosity about his tax returns, he has a funny way of doing it. Even so, I do sympathize with him for having to walk a fine line rhetorically to avoid moronic-yet-effective lines of attack like this. For instance, I’m tempted to say that he should treat any amount of money, no matter how small, as “a lot” while on the trail since that’ll signal to voters that he’s in touch with blue-collar workers and that he’s likely to cut spending if elected. But that wouldn’t work, would it? Imagine him walking out of Starbucks with coffee and a reporter asks how much he paid and he replies, “Five bucks. A lot!” That would be true — it is a lot for coffee — but it would also sound bizarre and phony coming from a guy worth $250 million. The only way out, I think, is to studiously refuse to characterize any amount of money as large or small unless he’s talking about the federal budget. If he does that and treads lightly on rhetoric about laying people off, he won’t do much damage to himself.

The things we have to worry about in the era of omnipresent media. Here’s Pelosi insisting that the conservative base doesn’t really believe that Romney can beat Obama. Is she right?