GOP Rivals Pounce on Mitt Romney
Blogging the Beltway: He's way ahead in New Hampshire, but his business past (and his own words) may eventually trip him up.
One day before the New Hampshire primary, the Republican presidential candidates are trying their best to leave lasting impressions with the state's voters. Here's a look at their latest efforts and the state of the race now:
1. There probably won't be a New Hampshire surprise -- Mitt Romney's way ahead. Despite a shakeup in Iowa with the rapid climb of Rick Santorum, who virtually tied with Romney's first-place finish last week, in New Hampshire Romney appears to be headed for a comfortable win. According to the most recent WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll, the former Massachusetts governor is leading by 24 points.
There is, however, a small shock over who will potentially battle Ron Paul for second place: Jon Huntsman, who has jumped four percentage points in the last couple of days to tie with Santorum for third. Despite placing dead last in Iowa, Hunstman's sudden momentum could give Paul competition. After all, he did have one of the most memorable moments in Sunday's GOP debate. When a smirking Romney criticized him for serving as ambassador to China under President Obama, a (gasp) Democrat, Huntsman garnered cheering applause when he responded to moderator David Gregory: "This nation is divided, David, because of attitudes like that."
2. That said, Romney is having a tough time on the trail. Although he's known for delivering focus group-approved sound bites, on Monday before the Nashua Chamber of Commerce, his poor choice of words handed his rivals attack ad-ready ammunition. While arguing that consumers should be able to choose their health care service providers, a relatively harmless idea, he put it this way:
"I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy," Romney said. "It also means that if you don't like what they do, you could fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone isn't giving the good service, I want to say, 'I'm going to go get someone else to provide this service.' "
It's that "I like being able to fire people" part that his opponents are having some out-of-context fun with. Getting another zinger at Romney's expense, today Huntsman told reporters: "Governor Romney enjoys firing people; I enjoy creating jobs."
3. Reversing his strategy to run a "positive campaign" (remember that?), Newt Gingrich is targeting Romney's business record with Bain Capital. Gingrich raised the issue of Bain, the private-equity firm that Romney once ran, during Saturday's GOP debate. Now a pro-Gingrich super PAC has released a trailer for its 28-minute film accusing Romney of bankrupting the companies he invested in, and firing workers, in order to make millions. As reported in the New York Times:
"His business success comes from raiding and destroying businesses -- putting people out of work, stealing their health care," said Rick Tyler, a senior adviser to the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, which recently bought the film, "King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town," after groups backing two other Republican candidates passed up opportunities to use it.
... The full 28-minute movie, which the group plans to post online, cuts back and forth between images of Mr. Romney's "$12 million California beach house" and men and women describing the pain of losing jobs.
As Gingrich trails in fourth place in New Hampshire, the super PAC is setting its sights for Bain-centric attack ads in South Carolina, which holds its primary next week. No telling whether it will give Gingrich a boost, but coupled with past remarks such as "Corporations are people" and "I like being able to fire people," the message that Romney amassed personal wealth on the backs of laid-off workers sure won't help him.
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.