DES MOINES — A feisty Mitt Romney faced down unfriendly fairgoers at the Iowa State Fair Thursday, and he also issued an accidental one-liner destined for Democratic attack ads should he become the Republican nominee.
“Corporations are people, my friend,” he said at one point, during a long back-and-forth on funding for Social Security and whether that funding should be a part of deficit negotiations.
“Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid account for about half of federal spending,” he said as a heckler shouted, “That’s a lie!.”
“Let him talk,” said another member of the audience.
“And if we are ultimately – not only this year but in the coming decades – going to be able to balance our federal budget and not spend more than we take in we have to make sure that the promises we make in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are promises we can keep. And there are various ways we can do that. One is we can raise taxes on people.”
At this point a fairgoer interrupted to say something about corporations.
“Corporations are people, my friend,” Romney said. “Of course they are,” he added, “everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.”
Someone in the audience snickered.
“Where do you think it goes?” Romney asked. “Whose pockets? People’s pockets,” he said, smiling. “Human beings, my friend.”
The Supreme Court famously decided in 2010 that corporations do have some of the same protections as people when it comes to campaign finance law.
Romney’s appearance in Iowa today was a great example of what happens when a candidate decides to take questions at an unscripted campaign event – in this case the infamous Des Moines Register Soapbox near the main gates of the fair.
Hostile fairgoers planted themselves in the front row as Romney spoke, and both sides got fired up.
“Hold on a second! Let me finish!” Romney said at one point.
One man demanded to know how Romney would protect Social Security and Medicare. Another asked Romney about tax rates. The candidate found himself at times yelling to interrupt the questioners.
“There was a time in this country when we didn’t celebrate rich people by attacking their success,” Romney fired back to a question about tax rates for the wealthy.
After disagreeing with another questioner about how to protect the solvency of Medicare and Social Security, he declared, “I will not raise taxes.”
“And if you want someone that can raise taxes, you can vote for Barack Obama,” he railed. “Let me tell you what Barack Obama is doing. Barack Obama is killing this economy. Barack Obama is why 25 million people don’t have jobs. And can’t find jobs.”
Before Romney took questions, he delivered a stem-winder of a speech attacking President Obama.
“We’re led by a man – he’s a fine fella – but he’s out of his depth.”
“If you want to create jobs, it helps to have had a job,” he said of the President.