Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) exchange with a few hecklers turned into something of a shouting match while he was stumping Thursday in Iowa.
Romney faced aggressive inquiries with a liberal bent at the top of the question-and-answer segment of his soapbox speech, which was organized by the The Des Moines Register and broadcast on C-SPAN.
The first two questioners pointedly asked Romney why he wouldn’t raise the cap on Social Security taxes, or promise not to cut Medicare benefits.
“If you want to speak, you can speak. But right now, it’s my turn,” Romney said, raising his voice toward the questioners, who bantered back-and-forth with him.
But it was his last line in response to a heckler that might stick with Romney the longest.
Democrats giddily circulated coverage of the comment; Democratic National Committee (DNC) communications director Brad Woodhouse emailed reporters an article about the remark with the subject line “BRUTAL.”
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Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom, who’s traveling in Iowa with the candidate, doubled down on the candidate’s remarks.
“Do folks think corporations are buildings?” he quipped. “They're people who incorporate to conduct business. They create jobs and hire more people.”
For the Romney campaign, the fear about such a remark is that it threatens to underscore perceptions about Romney that he's out of touch. The former Massachusetts governor appeared to have a tin ear earlier this summer when he joked with Florida supporters that he's “also unemployed.”
The tentative front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination accused the hecklers of wanting to raise taxes. The back-and-forth persisted throughout the Q-and-A period, which took place at the Register’s booth at the Iowa State Fair.
“If you don’t like my answer, you can go vote for someone else,” he said. “If you want someone who will raise taxes, you can vote for Barack Obama.”
This story was posted at 12:02 p.m. and updated at 1:30.