Romney tells business executives he likes to be able 'to fire people'

NASHUA, N.H. — Mitt Romney, who's under attack for his business record, said Monday that he likes to have the option of firing people.

"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," he told business executives from the Nashua Greater Chamber of Commerce, adding if he isn't getting a "good service, I want to say, I'm going to get someone else."

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He made the observation while answering a question about what kind of healthcare system he would implement as president. The former governor of Massachusetts did not talk about that state's system — and its individual mandate that infuriates conservatives — but outlined how he'd like to let people buy their own insurance instead of having to go through their companies.

That, he said, would give people the option of firing companies that didn't meet their needs.

His remarks come one day after he told New Hampshire voters he knows what it's like to fear getting a "pink slip," and also while he's under attack from both Democrats and his Republican rivals for his record as a business executive — the same record he's made the centerpiece of his argument as to why he should be president.


Democrats, in particular, are likely to latch on to the remark, which is made for an attack ad during the down economy.

The comment also comes while Romney's record at Bain Capital, the venture capital company he headed for several years in the 1980s and 1990s, is under scrutiny. The Wall Street Journal on Monday ran a long, investigative piece into the former Massachusetts governor's tenure there.

And a group supporting rival New Gingrich’s presidential campaign plans to run advertisements in South Carolina that describe Romney as a “corporate raider” who sought to increase his company's bottom line while cutting jobs.

The ad features testimonials from workers whose jobs were allegedly downsized by Bain Capital while Romney led that company.

Romney has a comfortable, double-digit lead in polls in New Hampshire, and is expected to win Tuesday's primary.

His speech Monday morning at a Radisson Hotel here focused on how his business experience helped him in government.

Romney focused his attacks on President Obama, not his GOP rivals.

"I don't know how we'll survive four more years of Barack Obama. It scares me," he said.

He then outlined actions of the Obama administration that worried him. He criticized the National Labor Relations Board interfering with Boeing's moving a factory to South Carolina and charged the administration with "crony capitalism," saying the "most striking" example is the investment in California firm Solyndra.

He had harsh words for the money that went to the solar energy firm, saying the mistakes there hurt general investment in that industry.

And, playing off reports of tension between Obama and business leaders, Romney told the crowd: "Sometimes I don't think he likes you very much. I love you."

The crowd erupted into laughter and applause, leading him to say: "And with that I only need you to go out and vote multiple times tomorrow."

Wearing a blazer but no tie, Romney was comfortable speaking to the crowd of business executives. He used no teleprompter and his speech got a standing ovation.

But he tried to down play his image as a corporate executive, noting: "I think some people imagine I went directly to the top level," he said. "I started off at the entry level."

He started at Bain, he said, "at the bottom level and was able to work my way up."

After his speech, he took questions from the crowd.

But he was interrupted by Julie Kushner, a member of the United Auto Workers, who tried to ask Romney about his comments that Obama should have let automakers go into bankruptcy instead of bailing them out.

Kushner wasn't given a microphone — unlike the other questioners — which made it difficult to hear what she was saying.

She rambled a bit, prompting Romney to say: "Do you have a question?" and "Let's get to the question, OK?"

Romney did start to explain why he supported the bankruptcy option, but when she tried to talk again, he said: "Excuse me, it's my turn to talk and if you want to talk afterwards, we can talk."

The audience started applauding and shouting their support for Romney, and organizers ended the event. Afterward, Kushner told reporters she didn't get a chance to talk to the former governor.

Reporters tried to speak with her some more but someone blasted the song "Life is a Highway," making it impossible to hear, and a person came on the PA system telling all people in the ballroom of the hotel to leave the room, including "reporters doing interviews."

This was the first of Romney's stops Monday. Next he'll meet with workers at Gilchrist Metal Fabricating Co., and will hold a rally this evening with supporters in Bedford, N.H.


—This story was posted at 10:20 a.m. and updated at 11:02 a.m.