At Tuesday night’s debate in Las Vegas, Mitt Romney faced attacks on his record on health care, particularly the close relationship between his health care reform in Massachusetts and Obamacare. But Texas governor Rick Perry was particularly forceful when criticizing Romney, primarily for his record on immigration and jobs.
Perry, whom Romney has attacked for being soft on illegal immigration, took on his rival from the right. “Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year,” Perry said. “And 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.”
Romney responded that he did not think “[he] had ever hired an illegal in [his] life.” The exchange became heated as both candidates tried arguing over each other. Romney argued that Perry’s own record on immigration—his opposition to a border fence and Texas’s in-state tuititon policy—were a problem. Perry pushed back with more details.
“You stood here in front of the American people and did not tell the truth that you had illegals working on your property,” Perry said. “And the newspaper came to you and brought it to your attention, and you still, a year later, had those individuals working for you.” Perry was referring to the Boston Globe’s reporting in 2006 and 2007 on a lawn care company Romney had hired that employed illegal immigrants. CNN even covered the controversy the last time Romney ran for president.
“We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal immigrants that were working there,” Romney responded. “And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go…I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals. It turns out that once question, they hired someone who had falsified their documents, had documents, and therefore we fired them.”
Perry also blasted Romney’s history of job creation in Massachusetts. “Mitt, while you were the governor of Massachusetts in that period of time, you were 47th in the nation in job creation,” Perry said. “During that same period of time, we created 20 times more jobs. As a matter of fact, you'd created 40,000 jobs total in your four years. Last two months, we created more jobs than that in Texas."
Romney responded by saying that during the four years both he and Perry were governors, the Massachusetts unemployment rate was lower than that of Texas.
“The American people would be happy for an individual who can lead the country who's actually created jobs, not just watching them get created by others, but someone who knows how the economy works because he's been in it,” Romney said. “I have. I've created jobs.”