DES MOINES — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received a rather aggressive Iowa welcome Thursday during his Des Moines Register soapbox appearance at the Iowa State Fair. Hecklers shouted at Romney about “cut, cap and balance,” Social Security and Medicare, and tax rates to wealthy individuals and corporations.
Chants of “scrap the cap” and “raise taxes on corporations, not people,” filled the air, countered by the former Governor’s supporters, who chanted “Romney! Romney!”
The appearance started off peacefully enough, with Romney standing by well-used quotes heard in Iowa and elsewhere, specifically “if you want to create jobs, it helps to have had a job,” a reference to President Barack Obama’s career as a politician.
“Let’s send some citizens to Washington in addition to some politicians to Washington,” Romney said. “I didn’t inhale politics. I’m still a business guy. I’m still a private citizen.”
Romney has amassed great personal wealth into the millions during his time in the private sector, which includes leading Bain & Company and Bain Capital, and serving as chief executive of the organizing committee for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The son of a self-made former Michigan governor, Romney holds law and masters of business degrees from Harvard.
Though Obama is “a fine fella,” Romney said, his policies on job creation and economic development failed, “and as a result, the American people are still suffering; and that’s why I’m predicting in this place, on this day, that in November 2012, Obama will not carry the state of Iowa.”
Things went south when it came to the question and answer portion.
Two men — Joe Fagan, 71, of Des Moines and Daniel Simmons, 23, also of Des Moines — questioned Romney aggressively, demanding he answer their questions about Medicare and Social Security funding. Romney and many attendees spoke over each other repeatedly.
“You came here to listen to the people,” Fagan, a registered Democrat and former Catholic priest, yelled at Romney, pointing his finger. “What are you going to do to strengthen social security, Medicare and Medicaid without hurting benefits?”
Romney pointed right and asked the man if he was done speaking. Fagan replied, “Well, I’m waiting to see what you’re gonna say.”
Answered Romney, “If you don’t like my answers, you can vote for someone else.”
As well, Romney said he absolutely would not raise taxes on corporations following a question about tax rates and cuts for the wealthy, a statement which found great unfavor with several attendees.
Romney defended himself: “There was a time in this country when we didn’t celebrate rich people by attacking their success. Corporations are people, too, my friends.”
Here’s a video clip of the exchange:
Afterwards, C-SPAN cameras caught an exchange between CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell and Romney in which the reporter attempts to ask a follow-up question.
“I just don’t take questions unless we are doing a press avail,” said Romney, referring to the pre-designated times politicians make themselves available to the media.
Watch the exchange: