As his momentum grows, Mitt Romney's opponents are left with little to do but attack. Today, Romney's opponents got a hand from... Romney.
"I like being able to fire people," Romney, who is being tarred as a corporate raider who profited off of pick slips at Bain Capital, said in New Hampshire when he went off script during a discussion about Health Savings Accounts. What Romney meant was that HSAs empower consumers to shop around for the best product.
Opponents pounced. Jon Huntsman's senior adviser, John Weaver, called Romney "a gaffe-prone, out-of-touch, flip-flopping, inauthentic candidate is a losing strategy." A secretive political committee backing Gingrich had already announced plans to air South Carolina ads about layoffs at Bain. And Rick Perry got in on the action the day before after Romney said that he, too, feared getting a pink slip.
"I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out -- because his company Bain Capital and all the jobs that they killed," Perry said, according to NBC. "I'm sure he was worried that he would run out of pink slips."
Are these attacks a great idea, or have these Republicans lost their conservative minds? After all, making the tough decisions and making money in a free market where jobs aren't guaranteed are a cornerstone of conservatism.
Romney's campaign pointed out the irony today in a statement issued through spokeswoman Andrea Saul: It is no surprise that, having spent nearly half a century in government between them, Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry have resorted to desperate attacks on a subject they don’t understand. We expect attacks on free enterprise from President Obama and his allies on the left – not from so-called ‘fiscal conservatives.’ Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry seem to think that running against the private sector is the way to revive their floundering campaigns. Governor Romney will continue talking about his experience in the real economy, his vision for getting America back to work, and how important it is that we defeat President Obama in November.”
Said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a written statement: "Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital are disgusting,”
While Saul might be right, the legacy of layoffs and the video of Romney saying he likes laying people off (regardless of context) is potentially toxic in this economy, where millions are unemployed and millions more fear for their jobs.
There's a chance Democrats might pile on soon. Some Republicans say they expect Democratic-leaning Bain-bashing ads to start up in South Carolina soon.
Bain isn't the only hit on Romney. Two more remain:
1) Taxes. Gingrich and Perry are taking aim at Romney for raising fees when he was Massachusetts governor. They say fees are simply another word for "taxes." To that end, Gingrich has unveiled his own tax ad, which is far more in keeping with a classic GOP hit.
2) RomneyCare. The tea-party revolt against against Obama and the Democrats was infused with opposition to the individual mandate in ObamaCare that requires people to buy health insurance. Though it was originally a conservative idea, it's now anathema to conservatives. And it was tried first in Massachusetts as part of RomneyCare. Romney calls it a success, but distinguishes his state healthcare plan from Obama's federal plan.
Still, the similarities are there. And RomneyCare is sure to be part of flyers and ads heading into South Carolina and Florida.