Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has been getting a lot of heat during the past couple of days for uttering the words “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me” while speaking at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in New Hampshire this week. He was speaking about giving people a choice in health insurance providers and the ability to switch companies if coverage is subpar. Both Republicans and Democrats have seized on his remarks and have been going to great lengths to paint Romney as a corporate raider who made a mint cutting jobs during his time as head of the private equity firm Bain Capital and as someone who is completely out of touch with the economic plight of ordinary Americans.
In many cases his remarks are being taken out of context, and unfairly so, but he makes it so easy. He is, after all, the candidate who once declared that corporations are people. During a debate he tried to wage a $10,000 bet with Gov. Rick Perry. And at a rally on Sunday Romney, who grew up in a wealthy family and has earned millions on his own, said that he knows what it’s like to worry about being fired and getting a pink slip.
Such statements appear enormously callous to the millions of Americans who’ve actually received pink slips in the past few years, particularly African-Americans whose unemployment rate is almost double the national rate.
“On its own the firing statement wouldn’t have been much of a story but it fits in this pattern that his opponents can use to paint a picture of a wealthy businessman who has no knowledge or concern about ordinary working people,” said San Francisco State University political scientist Robert Smith. “But most African-American voters would say that all of the Republican candidates think the same way Romney does.”
Smith added that the attacks on Romney are a gift to President Obama who will likely face the former Massachusetts governor in the general election. He will be able to use comments like “corporations are people” and his worry about getting a pink slip to show that Romney is not just out of touch but also insensitive.
Dewey Clayton, a political scientist at the University of Louisville, agrees. He said that the Obama team will not only be able to repackage the current attacks to blunt Republican accusations that the president is waging class warfare and not doing enough to create jobs, but also will be able to point to Romney’s former rivals as the ones who started the line of attack.
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