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After Romney win, Biden seizes on 'fire people' comment

January 10, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Vice President Joe Biden, pictured in Athens in December, addressed supporters in New Hampshire and detailed the case he said he and President Obama would make to voters this fall.
Vice President Joe Biden, pictured in Athens in December, addressed supporters… (Thanassis Stavrakis / AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from Manchester, N.H. — Four years later, Barack Obama has his New Hampshire primary victory. And with Mitt Romney one step closer to the Republican nomination, Obama's campaign is stepping up the fight by seizing on its would-be rival's remarks about how he enjoyed "being able to fire people."

Last week, President Obama addressed Iowa Democrats gathered at caucus locations via video streaming. Tonight, Vice President Joe Biden rallied New Hampshire Democrats gathered at house parties across the state, and set the stage for the November battle.

After touting the administration's successes in its three-plus years in office, Biden turned to the comments Romney made a day earlier in Nashua, N.H. When he talked about firing people, the former Massachusetts governor was talking about health insurance. But rivals have nonetheless used the soundbite without full explanation.

PHOTOS: New Hampshire voters head to the polls

"In fairness, that was probably taken a little out of context," Biden acknowledged. "But what isn't out of context is the basic point he was making. He thinks it's more important for the stockholders, shareholders and the investors, the venture capital guys do well than for the employees to be part of the bargain."

"It's one thing to make a profit," he continued. "It's another thing to maximize your profit to the extent you disregard what happens to the people who work for you."

Republicans believe, Biden said, that if the very wealthy do well, all will do well.

"We had eight years of that. It was a disaster. I think the American people have figured it out. And that's the case Barack and I are going to make to the American people -- without a growing middle class, America's capacity to do everything shrinks," he said.

Turnout in today's Democratic primary in New Hampshire was expected to be far lower than in the Republican race. But Democrats are nonetheless attempting to use the contest to mobilize.

On the website of the New Hampshire Union Leader, Obama campaign ads are omnipresent. "Only Barack Obama is fighting for the middle class," one reads. "New Hampshire primary results: the tea party agenda wins," screams another.

Biden said that New Hampshire is one of the five states he will be focusing on behalf of the ticket during the 2012 campaign. Perhaps that is an acknowledgement of Obama's low approval ratings here -- numbers that are worse than in other key swing states.

New Hampshire, of course, was a source of frustration in 2008 for the Obama team. Four years ago, polls showed the then-Illinois senator on track for a shocking two-step, having already won Iowa and with a sizable lead in New Hampshire over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But Granite Staters, as they are known to do, had a sudden change of heart. It might have been her emotional display in Portsmouth, Obama's comment in a final debate that his colleague was only "likable enough," or simply the notion that the primary battle ought to play out a bit longer. Whatever the reason, Clinton survived to fight on, and fight she did right on through the last primary in June.

Obama, though, won the nomination, and then the presidency. Now, while Republicans duke it out, he faces no serious opposition -- he shared the Democratic primary ballot here with 13 unknowns.

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