Mitt Romney: Mr. Tough Guy

Romney challenges a heckler in Iowa.

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Mitt Romney had a big moment when he confronted hecklers at the Iowa State Fair yesterday. This morning, the Romney rumble is still getting lots of attention on YouTube, in the news media, and on the political circuit. Democrats and the Romney team disagree about whether the incident was a boon or a blunder but it continues to generate buzz.

Romney was making remarks when opponents in the crowd began loudly challenging him about his position on Social Security cuts and his support for lower taxes on corporations. At one point, an unusually animated and aggressive Romney said, "Corporations are people, my friend," prompting an outraged response from an angry heckler. The two talked over each other, and then Romney let the man speak. Romney, former CEO of investment firm Bain & Co., had the last word. "I'm not going to raise taxes—that's my answer," he said. "And if you want someone who can raise taxes, you can vote for Barack Obama. You don't agree with that? That's your right. You may disagree with it—but that's my view." Reporters at the scene said most of the people in the crowd cheered Romney. [See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

Strategists for the Democratic National Committee pounced, arguing that Romney had made a major gaffe that showed him to be awkward, out of touch, and too cozy with corporate interests. Romney aides said the opposite—that the moment showed the firm, cheerful, down-to-earth side of a candidate who has been criticized for being aloof and bloodless.

Karl Rove, a Fox News commentator and former political strategist for President George W. Bush, said the incident reminded him of a breakout moment for Ronald Reagan in the 1980 campaign. That's when Reagan took control of a candidates' debate by admonishing the moderator, "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green."

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