Though most analysts agree that Mitt Romney is a superior debater compared to his colleagues running for President and that he generally wipes the floor with them, nobody will see greater repercussions for a statement than Romney from last night, when he admitted that his personal self-interest basically trumps everything else.

The issue was a fairly silly gotcha moment set up by Rick Perry about Romney having undocumented workers working at the company mowing his lawn. I don’t know how the burden of proof jumped from the contractor paying the undocumented workers for landscaping services to the homeowner who probably isn’t even around when the work is done. Generally I agree with Paul Waldman on this. If anything, there’s a hypocrisy hit, as Romney has generally been hawkish on immigration. But it’s just not possible – or advisable, really – to have everyone hiring a landscaping company to vet the workers that come to their house. A smart politician would learn from that and look to a different solution than punishing people trying to support their families.

And that was part of Romney’s explanation last night. But he also revealed a bit too much.

Mitt Romney: We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn and they had illegal immigrants that were working there. When that was pointed out to us, we let them go […] So we went to the company and we said, ‘Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property! I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals!’ Turns out that once again, they hired someone who had falsified their documents and therefore we fired them. Let me tell you, it is hard in this country as an individual homeowner to [know] if people who are contractors working at your home if they hired people that are illegal. If I’m president we’ll put in an e-verify system, which you oppose, and crack down on people who come here illegally.

It’s not that hiring undocumented workers is a general problem of the violating-the-law variety, it’s that it’s a problem for Mitt Romney and his nascent Presidential campaign. It might come up in a debate or something. That was what he expressed last night. And it feeds into an image of him as a phony, as if that image needed to be reinforced. Not to mention the fact that most of America would be happy to have as their biggest problem how to handle the subcontractor that mows one of their many lawns in front of their many houses.

Though most analysts agree that Mitt Romney is a superior debater to his colleagues running for President and that he generally wipes the floor with them, nobody will see greater repercussions for a statement than Romney from last night, when he admitted that his personal self-interest basically trumps everything else.

The issue was a fairly silly gotcha moment set up by Rick Perry about Romney having undocumented workers working at the company mowing his lawn. I don’t know how the burden of proof jumped from the contractor paying the undocumented workers for landscaping services to the homeowner who probably isn’t even around when the work is done. Generally I agree with Paul Waldman on this. If anything, there’s a hypocrisy hit, as Romney has generally been hawkish on immigration. But it’s just not possible – or advisable, really – to have everyone hiring a landscaping company to vet the workers that come to their house. A smart politician would learn from that and look to a different solution than punishing people trying to support their families.

And that was part of Romney’s explanation last night. But he also revealed a bit too much.

Mitt Romney: We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn and they had illegal immigrants that were working there. When that was pointed out to us, we let them go […] So we went to the company and we said, ‘Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property! I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, we can’t have illegals!’ Turns out that once again, they hired someone who had falsified their documents and therefore we fired them. Let me tell you, it is hard in this country as an individual homeowner to [know] if people who are contractors working at your home if they hired people that are illegal. If I’m president we’ll put in an e-verify system, which you oppose, and crack down on people who come here illegally.

It’s not that hiring undocumented workers is a general problem of the violating-the-law variety, it’s that it’s a problem for Mitt Romney and his nascent Presidential campaign. It might come up in a debate or something. That was what he expressed last night. And it feeds into an image of him as a phony, as if that image needed to be reinforced. Not to mention the fact that most of America would be happy to have as their biggest problem how to handle the subcontractor that mows one of their many lawns in front of their many houses.

David Dayen

David Dayen