The day before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, Romney, the front-runner, spoke for nearly 45 minutes at a breakfast discussion organized by the local chamber of commerce and attended by local businessmen, businesswomen, and journalists. Afterward, he took questions from the audience, including one on how he would fix America's health-care system as president after repealing President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Here's Romney's full reply (emphasis mine):
"I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also mean that if you don't like what they do, you could fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone isn't giving the good service, I want to say, 'I'm going to get someone else to provide this service too.'"
Now, Romney's "I like being able to fire people" comment needs to be placed in the context of his response to the local businessman's question. Still, it's exactly the kind of soundbite to end up in a Democratic attack ad in three or four months if Romney wins the GOP presidential nomination.
The quote couldn't come at a worse time for Romney, whose opponents are ramping up their attacks on his work at Bain Capital. A pro-Newt Gingrich super-PAC, Winning Our Future, has created a 27-minute video purports to highlight the "corporate raider" nature of Bain's business model. The super-PAC told the New York Times it will spend $3.4 million on ads in South Carolina, the site of the next primary. Some of that money will surely be spent on ads attacking Romney and his business record. (Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson recently cut a $5 million check to Winning Our Future, so the group can afford a big ad buy.)
The full context makes Romney's "fire people" quote seem less controversial. But that won't stop Republicans, Democrats, and political front groups from making use of it. Thirty-second political ads aren't known for their ability to put quotes in their proper context.