Mitt Romney's GOP presidential rivals haven't united behind a single candidate to take on the frontrunner, say Reid Epstein and Jim VandeHei at Politico, but they're sure "uniting around the theme that the former head of Bain Capital looted companies, tossed people out of jobs, and is now exaggerating his success at the venture capital firm." Romney has "inadvertently" provided fuel for their "Bain bomb" attacks with a series of uncharacteristic "stumbles" in the day's leading up to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Here are four mistakes that could become obstacles on Romney's seemingly inevitable path to the GOP nomination:
1. "I like being able to fire people"
On Monday, Romney was explaining to a New Hampshire audience why he thinks people should be able to shop around for health insurance "when he turned to the camera, and said, with perverse pleasure, 'I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,'" says Dana Milbank at The Washington Post. It doesn't help that "the look on Romney's face when he says this line is right out of evil-boss-man central casting," says Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post. Democrats and GOP rivals are already ripping Romney's "whopper of an unforced error" — out of context, of course, from Mitt's "perfectly reasonable argument" on competition. But given Romney's blatant, "unrepentant" misuse of an Obama quote in a recent ad of his own, Mitt deserves the "onslaught of distortion befalling him."
2. Claiming he once feared getting fired, too
On Sunday, Romney told voters that he knows what it's like to "worry whether you're going to get fired," adding that "there were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip." On Monday, Romney explained that he feared for his consulting job as a newly minted Harvard MBA grad. Still, Rick Perry had the sharpest rebuttal, quipping that he has "no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out" while heading up Bain, given "all the jobs that they killed." Let's face it, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. Every time the super-wealthy Romney "tries to connect with regular voters... you want to curl up into a little ball of excruciation." He's a "plutocrat" ill-equipped to run in these populist times.
3. Suggesting that only the rich should run for office
At the GOP presidential debate Sunday morning, Romney recounted some "good advice" from his father, auto executive–turned–Michigan Gov. George Romney: "Mitt, never get involved in politics if you have to win an election to pay a mortgage." Mitt then bragged that in 1994, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was forced to take out a mortgage on his house to defeat Romney. Suggesting that "only rich people should run for office" is "Romney at his most tone-deaf," says Ben Smith at BuzzFeed. Yes, but who better than a French-speaking quarter-billionaire to "lay bare the pure beating heart of noblesse oblige," says Alec MacGillis at The New Republic.
4. Talking about seeing an ad he just claimed never to have seen
Newt Gingrich was onto something when he told Romney in Sunday's debate to "drop a little bit of the pious baloney," says John Dickerson at Slate. Romney showed a little bit of both the "pious" and the "baloney" when he claimed he'd never even seen the brutal ads his allies ran in Iowa against Gingrich, "but moments later" recited, "in considerable detail, the exact criticisms in 'the ad I saw.'" Romney "will probably take some heat for seeming to flip-flop mid-answer," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. But his "slipperiness" still allowed Romney to "get the better of this exchange" with Newt.