On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, New York Times political reporters Jeff Zeleny (pictured) and Jim Rutenberg loaded up on crude anti-business stereotypes that went beyond even what front-runner Mitt Romney's GOP rivals were saying, in Tuesday’s “On Primary Eve, Rivals Try to Put Romney on Defensive.” (This version is lightly updated from the print version in Tuesday’s newspaper.)
Mitt Romney fought to keep an upper hand in the Republican presidential race on Tuesday as his rivals sought to slow his march to the nomination and raise doubts about his electability by branding him as a job-killing corporate villain.
As New Hampshire voters began casting ballots in the nation’s first primary, Mr. Romney found himself on the unfamiliar terrain of defending his business pedigree against fellow Republicans as his challengers tried to tap into a populist sentiment. He played into the criticism with a handful of missteps, with rivals jumping on him for having suggested that he, too, has feared getting “a pink slip.”
A heated Republican debate over the ethics of aggressive business tactics -- and the broader implication that Mr. Romney was out of touch with the lives of ordinary people -- seemed incongruous for a party that is traditionally unapologetic about its embrace of corporate wealth creation. A daylong series of exchanges underscored the urgency facing the Republican hopefuls who are fighting for an edge when the race moves beyond New Hampshire.
Mr. Romney, whose standing in the state has slipped in recent days, anticipated the disparagement and is trying to put a human face on the private equity business to push back against being portrayed as a greedy titan who saw his own wealth rise as companies that Bain acquired laid off workers and closed factories. Mr. Romney, who went into business after receiving law and business degrees from Harvard and grew up as the son of the chairman of American Motors, seemed to acknowledge that he still needed to do more to connect with voters.
On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, his Republican challengers were ready to pounce on any opening. When Mr. Romney argued that consumers should have more choices in how they get their health insurance, he said: “It also means that if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them.” He added, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”
Here’s the full quote, which few voters and even fewer Republican voters should disagree with:
I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. 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 to.