Mitt Romney was thrown off balance for the first time in the 2012 race, as a gang of primary opponents assailed him on the issues of health care and immigration during Tuesday night’s GOP debate.
Romney has largely coasted through a season’s worth of Republican candidate forums. That appeared to change in Nevada on Tuesday, as multiple rivals blasted his record from the right — starting with the universal health care law Romney signed in Massachusetts.
You hired illegals in your home, and you knew about it for a year,” Perry said. “The idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you’re strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy.”
The attack referred to a 2007-vintage report from The Boston Globe, which revealed that a company Romney used for lawn care had hired illegal workers.
The former Massachusetts governor pushed back against both sets of attacks but struggled at times to get a word in edgewise against opponents who repeatedly interrupted him.
And in the exchange with Perry, Romney got visibly flustered and delivered a gaffe suggesting his choice of lawn-care company was politically motivated.
“I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake. I can’t have illegals,” said Romney, who jabbed that Perry’s attack came from desperation after “a tough couple of debates.”
Perry’s campaign was prepared for the attack, emailing reporters a 2007 Boston Globe that first revealed the presence of undocumented workers at Romney’s Belmont, Mass., home. The campaign also sent a release headlined “Romney is a fraud on immigration.”
Giuliani: If you're going to take this holier than thou attitude, that your whole approach to immigration...
Romney: I'm sorry, immigration is not holier than thou, Mayor. It's the law.
Giuliani: If you're going to take this holier than thou attitude that you are perfect on immigration...
Romney: I'm not perfect.
Giuliani: ... it just happens you have a special immigration problem that nobody else up here has. You were employing illegal immigrants. That is a pretty serious thing. They were under your nose.