Are Bain, 'Fire' Comments Enough to Derail Romney?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Republican presidential hopeful former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign rally on January 9, 2012 in Bedford, New Hampshire. (Getty)

Recap from It's a Free Country.

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Josh Rogers, political reporter for New Hampshire Public Radio, and Anna Sale, It's A Free Country political reporter, talked about Tuesday's New Hampshire primary and the last-minute challenges for Mitt Romney.

'I like being able to fire people'

Mitt Romney must have felt that this was too easy. He must have thought that his challengers in the Republican party needed fresh ammo for their stump speeches and negative ads.

The front-runner has long tried to balance his history as a wealthy corporate "turnaround artist" with the image of an authentic, in-touch candidate that has room in his heart for Wall Street and Main Street. He's had to defend himself and his company, Bain Capital, from charges that they specialized in laying off workers and raiding pension funds for the benefit of executives—not exactly helping his case that he's the "jobs" candidate.

But that's been pretty easy so far. So yesterday, when Romney was talking about the need to keep insurance a free market, he remarked that he "liked being able to fire people," in reference to dropping your insurance company if they're not providing a good product. It makes for an out-of-context soundbite perfectly tailored for anyone running against Mitt Romney.

But Brian Lehrer observed an interesting paradox in trying to turn off voters with Romney's business experience: this is a Republican primary, and Republicans are supposed to like free markets, free enterprise, capitalism, and, by extension, what Mitt Romney has done in the private sector. Anna Sale said that was reflected in the Romney campaign's damage control.

His press office sent out a slew of e-mails yesterday, one of which was a list of conservative commentators defending free enterprise and making that exact point. 'Hey guys, remember, we're for free enterprise in the Republican party.'

At a campaign event on Sunday, Anna said, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie provided similar justification for supporting Romney.

Christie is trying to grab onto that and say, Mitt Romney is actually someone we should look to as inspiration: he's been a success in business and Obama, Christie argues, has divided America and is running a cynical, pessimistic campaign.

Attacks landing?

Jon Huntsman was the first candidate to seize on the opportunity to slam Romney with that quote, but he won't be the last, says Sale.

We haven't seen the end of it yet. Even if Romney seals this deal in New Hampshire and we head to South Carolina, this is going to keep being the story.

It's an open question as to whether such attacks accomplish the goal: sufficiently scaring unenthusiastic voters ("soft support," according to Sale) away from Romney.  Sale says that while stoking anxiety about Newt Gingrich's record killed his momentum in Iowa, the same isn't true for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire.

What you hear is, 'I think he might be a little out of touch,' 'I just don't trust him'—hemming and hawing about Romney as opposed to 'I don't trust that my job's safe under a Mitt Romney presidency.'

On to South Carolina

It seems the GOP is limping towards a Romney ticket, and tonight could bring them a step closer. Jon Huntsman's put all his marbles on New Hampshire, and a sluggish showing would almost certainly knock him out of the race, thinning the field further.

Romney's expected to win tonight, but Josh Rogers said that victory alone won't be a bellwether for Romney's continued success.

Presuming that Romney wins, what is the margin? Is it such that he can claim it's a convincing win and will send him on his way in South Carolina, or will it reopen everything down there?


Josh Rogers and Anna Sale

Comments [36]

@The Truth from Becky

Sounds like you may need some "going down"!

Jan. 10 2012 12:18 PM


What you're suggesting, is that Christie's ass is just too damn enormous to lead??

I think you're on to something.

Jan. 10 2012 12:13 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

@BL -

Are you actually trying to be ironic in calling out the press for distorting Mitt Romney's 'I like being able to fire...' statement. Each and every speech that Gov. Romney gives will contain a distortion of the President's efforts to work with the obstructionist Congress to move the country out of the recession they created.

His latest stump speech coming on this weekend's announcement of 8.5% unemployment rate was to remind voters about the President's promise that unemployment would be no worse than 8% IF he got a stimulus package. The package that Congress passed was far smaller than the original request so holding the President's feet to the fire is, itself, a willful distortion. But as Mitt has proven over and over again, he is willing to say anything (regardless of the truth content) in order to get a vote.

I like being able to fire people that provide services to me as well - especially if the service is poor. Unfortunately, government like electrical power and cable service and increasingly health care is a monopoly. The crop of choices for those that will lead us is uncommonly poor this season.

Jan. 10 2012 10:56 AM
BJK from Queens

I just heard the this possible 'interpretation' of Christie's snappy retort to one of the PaulBots incessant disruption, offered by BL and his guest.
To attibute to Chrystie that this is what he had in mind is ridiculous.
Chrystie's entire persona and image is based on the 'New Jersey' tough-guy/strongman, the guy that never backs down from any fight.
I heard the clip, and what the asserted sexual connotation of that expression was the last thing I, or likely anyone in that room, thought of.
By 'go down', he meant: 'if you continue to hassle me, you will soon go down, as in hit the floor'.
The woman was supposedly shouting that jobs had 'gone down' during Christies tenure, which led to him using those exact words.
Is this now going to be picked up by Democrats as the new 'meme', sort of like Romney wishing to exercise his right to dismiss people doing a lousy job, by 'firing people'?

Jan. 10 2012 10:46 AM

Christie is a thug
and he is too unhealthy to be president

Jan. 10 2012 10:46 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

One of the tragedies is that with "politicians" and "the media" talking about "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" what you really get is "Dumber and Dumber".

There's hardly any "job creation" in a competitive economy that isn't targeted at "job destruction" too. That's always been how things worked. What CHANGED though is that the "net job creation" went from creating more to destroying more.

The environment changed... because a growing economy has been changing its environment as its demands on it increased. So... now there's less need for people to be more efficient at "picking low hanging fruit", and now more of a need for fewer people, so that a few winners can take more.

That's ALSO how economies have always worked, their natural limits.

Jan. 10 2012 10:44 AM
The Truth from Becky

Caller TIM, wrong choice of words, he is not an SUV there is no "buyers remorse" and it would take anyone more than 4 years to turn this train wreck around. ALSO Hillary is certainly NOT a better choice.

Jan. 10 2012 10:43 AM
Ann from Westchester

It's not about the "go down." It's the "sweetheart." Christie could be talking about beating someone up (as I think) or bedding her. Obviously, either of those connotations is offensive. BUT, take out that line. The "sweetheart" alone gets to me. Would he call Mitt or even Obama "Honey" or "Sweetheart"? He puts a woman in her place. I say "screw him," and I don't mean it literally.

Jan. 10 2012 10:37 AM
PK from NYC

As a republican turned libertarian, my only comment is that this entire debate about a contradictory statement reflects the misguided platform of the republican party right now. This primary is incredibly important in sending a message to the party that it is time to change... Vote Ron Paul!

Jan. 10 2012 10:35 AM
Edward from NJ

Just to be clear, Christie meant "go down" as in "get killed". Presumably, this is better? Really?

Jan. 10 2012 10:32 AM

I called in and informed your that I was wondering why your "story line" seemed to include Congressman Paul if he has not criticized Romney for his business practices at Bain (sp?) Capital.
My phone connection was lost.
Is there a report of Mr Paul making such a criticism? Or are you just including him in the "all of the Republican candidates" meme out of your medium's limitation to be accurate in the limited time you alot to your task?
Have a good day (no hard feelings for dropping my call - :-)

Jan. 10 2012 10:31 AM
john from office

Gov. Soprano, Hey tony hows the mall building going!!

Jan. 10 2012 10:31 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

"prefabricated success". How well put, Moderate Republican.
Mitt complains about "entitlements", but this guy has no doubt felt entitled to the presidency since his first teeth cut...There's a lot of silver-spoon-suckers amongst the "job creators", and it's an issue that should get more attention if the income/wealth/opportunity-inequality discussion progresses.

Jan. 10 2012 10:31 AM
Chriss from Montclair

These fine upstanding “women” were interrupting an event. The moment you do that (and generally show a lack of respect) you deserved to be called whatever the speaker chooses.

These folks were lucky to only be called sweetheart.

Jan. 10 2012 10:30 AM
The Truth from Becky

Just don't use 'going down' in public!! dumazz

Jan. 10 2012 10:30 AM
CL from NYC

Paul Krugman settled the matter of Romney and his Bain experience in a column a few days ago.

These BL show segments on American politics are really weak.

Jan. 10 2012 10:29 AM
Dorian from Manhattan

Brian, you and others on the show have referred to Romney's former firm potentially "raiding" pension plans. That's an evocative term, but does it actually mean in this context?

Jan. 10 2012 10:29 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Not only did Romney take Obama even further out of context than his own words were taken--Obama was quoting McCain--Romney defended the ad when he was called on it.

Jan. 10 2012 10:28 AM
john from office

I am a republican and will vote for Obama. He is the only option here and has done the best he can. Mittbot will get creamed in debates and in the Court of public opinion.

Jan. 10 2012 10:28 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

Sorry, forgot the link to the Washington Post piece:

Jan. 10 2012 10:26 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

With limited data, the Washington Post fact checked Romney's 100K statement and that in a 1994 Romney campaign ad, claimed:

“'Mitt Romney has spent his life building more than 20 businesses and helping to create more than 10,000 jobs. So when it comes to creating jobs, he's not just talk. He's done it.'

Now, apparently, those 10,000 jobs have increased tenfold, apparently in part because of Bain investments in which Romney had at best a tangential role."

And don't worry, Obama is going to beat up on Bain Capital and it WILL work.

Jan. 10 2012 10:25 AM
Keira from manhattan

People can already fire their insurance company under Obamacare--that's worth focusing on. Romney's whole premise is false.

Jan. 10 2012 10:24 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

It simply shows the quandary of the Republican Party. They need the votes of the white working class they have a contempt for.

Jan. 10 2012 10:22 AM
Moderate Republican from Upper-West Side

As a moderate Republican, I *am* sensitive to these attacks on Romney as out of touch-- BUT: I've never voted in a Republican primary, and I'm not likely to. I sympathize with the working class; I believe Romney was born with a silver spoon in his mouth; and I resent his easy, prefabricated success in the business world. The business world hasn't been quite so kind to me, particularly since 2009.

Jan. 10 2012 10:20 AM
Bob from Pelham NY

David & Bobby G are exactly right. I would love to dump United HealthCare but I would never call it a "firing". For a rich guy to talk about firing service people who displease him sounds like a BBC/PBS "Upstairs Downstairs" script.

Jan. 10 2012 10:20 AM
Donna from Bloomfield

Talk about burying the lead. Who can fire their insurance company. You can't even get insurance let alone argue about price or performance. That's the real story.

Jan. 10 2012 10:18 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

David and Bobby, right on.
Whatever Mitt's actual meaning, his verbiage seems revealing. Specifically, he said he likes firing people who "provide services" to him, not "poor services", which would seem to be more consistent with his alleged meaning...

Jan. 10 2012 10:18 AM
Rose from Norwalk

Sorry but he deserves it. Romney's been distorting and lying about Obama's record for months... These attacks are in the same vane as the attacks in the Dem primary in 2007/ 2008.

Jan. 10 2012 10:15 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

He did not say he enjoyed firing people. He said he enjoyed being able to fire people. This implies that it is the choice he likes.

Jan. 10 2012 10:15 AM

In re the Romney comment about "liking to fire people" - even taken properly IN CONTEXT, just how easy would it be for a person to "fire" their health insurance company? He said "I want individuals to have their own insurance. “That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them." Say what? it takes months if not ages to even GET health insurance, and most people truly have little to no choice, even folks with corporate plans! Without universal coverage, virtually NO ONE has the option to "fire" their insurance and casually switch!

And forget about "switching" AFTER you're sick! (eg, the health insurance company has "failed" to keep you healthy). Who on earth can actually do that? Except, maybe, Mitt Romney. #fail

Jan. 10 2012 10:15 AM

Romney deliberately took a 2008 Obama quote out of context and used it in a Romney ad. He now gets to taste his own medicine.

Jan. 10 2012 10:14 AM

looks to me the best republicans didn't wanted to run against obama this year. all the GOP had left is a bunch of bottom feeders and losers.

Jan. 10 2012 10:14 AM
David from West Hempstead

The problem, Brian, is the framing of discontinuing a service through "firing" someone. It's not a standard way to talk about changing insurance companies, certainly, and it's incredibly tone-deaf in an economy with 8.5% unemployment.

Jan. 10 2012 10:11 AM
Bobby G from East Village

I changed from one cell phone provider to another. Never did I use the word "fire." Context or no context, Mr. Romney constructed his sentence using the word "fire." It reveals the way he thinks.

Jan. 10 2012 10:07 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

Bottom line on Romney's time at Bain:

Was he a net job creator or destroyer? (and what are the precise numbers and how can they be found?)

Jan. 10 2012 10:02 AM
bernie from bklyn

it's still shocking to look at these republican candidates. more embarrassing than ever and the addition of the citizens united decision and how it's just a battle of the donors is making is worse than ever. all except huntsman are ridiculous, extreme morons and i'm embarrassed for my country once again. think of our european friends when they hear these candidates talk about banning contraception! condoms should be illegal! this is not a joke, they really believe this. we criticize countries like saudi arabia for their archaic laws and customs but the right wing in this country is just as antiquated and unevolved. shameful.

Jan. 10 2012 09:42 AM

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