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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Vegas Debate

Alexander Burns writes at Politico:

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.”

Also at Politico, Reid Epstein and Maggie Haberman write:
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.”

“Despite tough talk directed at employers hiring illegal aliens, it was discovered in the last campaign that Romney went a decade without checking the citizenship status of those who tended to his 2½ acre lawn,” the campaign wrote.

Perry’s senior political adviser Dave Carney said in the post-debate spin room that Romney’s vulnerability on the issue is clear.

“When you make a holier-than-thou argument about it and you know about hiring illegals … it seems kind of hypocritical,” Carney said.

Carney took the "holier than thou" line directly from Rudy Giuliani's 2007 debate exchange with Romney on the subject:

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.