Mitt Romney: "I Like Being Able To Fire People"

Mitt Romney has run a remarkably gaffe-free campaign.

Until today.

In what might be the most damaging single sentence to emerge from a frontrunner’s lips since John McCain’s 2008 claim that the “fundamentals of our economy are strong” (which he uttered as Lehman Brothers was collapsing and the stock market was plummeting), Mitt Romney said this morning that he “likes being able to fire people.”

“Wait a minute,” you might think, “that’s taken totally out of context!”

That may be true, but it doesn’t matter. Gaffes that reinforce an existing narrative about a candidate are almost always the most harmful ones, and Gov. Romney is already enduring increasing attacks from opponents and Democrats alike for being more of a job “cremator” than job creator during his tenure at Bain Capital.

As pundit Michael Kinsley once said, a “gaffe” is when a politician tells the truth. Mr. Romney’s comment will hurt him because many voters will view it as revelatory, not accidental.

You may remember that back in 2008, days before the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Barack Obama sarcastically quipped during a debate that Sen. Hillary Clinton was “likeable enough,” paving the way for her unexpected win in the Granite State.

It’s less likely that Mitt Romney will lose tomorrow night’s primary – but his gaffe could narrow the margin and complicate his “inevitable” march to the nomination.

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