But in many respects Romney’s words are more problematic because of their context. He seemed to consign the poor to a station in life. He suggested that society has done its duty because of the fact that “we have a safety net.”

In so doing, Romney seemed utterly unaware of a long strain of conservative thought on the morality of capitalism. He seemed oblivious to the argument​—​central to the conservative movement​—​that free markets allow the poor to transcend their position, that poverty is not destiny. He seemed not to realize that the “safety net” does not allow policymakers to “focus” elsewhere, but requires them to fashion policies to reduce the need for such programs…

“My father was a bartender,” Rubio said. “And I thank God every night that there was someone willing to risk their money to build a hotel on Miami Beach and later in Las Vegas where he could work. I thank God that there was enough prosperity in America so people could go on vacation to Miami or Las Vegas. Where people felt prosperous enough to have weddings or Bar Mitzvahs and, by the way, could leave tips in my Dad’s little tip jar. Because with that money he raised us. And he gave me the opportunity to do things he never had a chance to do.”

If Romney wants to return to Tampa to accept the GOP nomination, he would do well to spend more time before then with Rubio. And maybe, in a more formal way, afterwards.