Romney's Verbal 'Fire' Stokes Several Campaigns On Eve Of N.H. Primary

Originally published on January 11, 2012 12:01 am

Mitt Romney added an impromptu news conference to his already full campaign calendar Monday in New Hampshire to explain this statement from earlier in the day: "I like being able to fire people that provide services to me."

When he said those words, Romney was making a point — during breakfast at the Nashua Chamber of Commerce — about the value of being able to switch insurance companies if you're not getting good service.

At the news conference several hours later, Romney complained that "in politics, people are going to grasp at anything, take it out of context."

And NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that "out of context, the line plays into every negative stereotype of Mitt Romney as the cold-hearted businessman who made his fortune laying people off."

His rivals piled on immediately.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said: "Gov. Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs."

In South Carolina, the campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who earlier had mocked the wealthy Romney for saying that he knows what it's like to fear for your job, offered supporters a downloadable ring tone of Romney saying repeatedly: "I like being able to fire people."

And the Democratic National Committee sent out an email linking to the video.

In other campaign-related news, NPR's Don Gonyea reports that Huntsman is "suddenly in great demand" in New Hampshire, rising to third in recent polls after ignoring the Iowa caucuses.

NPR's Mara Liasson reports that people were "literally hanging onto the rafters" at the Lawrence Barn community center in Hollis, N.H., to hear former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who nearly won the Iowa caucuses. Santorum highlighted his ethnic blue-collar background, and contrasting his background and his record to those of Romney.

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