Mitt Romney tends to run into trouble when he tries to relate to Americans who are struggling. There was that time over the summer, for example, that he joked about being “unemployed.”

The multi-millionaire stumbled into a similar situation in New Hampshire yesterday, reflecting on the times he feared losing his job. “I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re gonna get fired,” Romney said. “There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.”

By all appearances, this is plainly false. Looking back over his career choices, there was simply never a moment at which Romney was likely to get fired from anything. Arguably the only people who wanted to give him a pink slip were his constituents in Massachusetts, who grew to dislike him quite a bit. But Romney didn’t give them a chance — rather than lose a re-election bid, the governor quit after one term.

Asked by reporters for an example of Romney worrying about getting fired, his campaign team offered nothing, which is generally a big hint that the candidate just made it up.

But as it turns out, Romney’s manufactured memories opened the door to a new line of attack from his Republican rivals.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry picked up the attacks on Mitt Romney this morning, trying to capitalize off the former Bain Capital executive’s comment that he once feared getting a pink slip.

“Now I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips — whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company Bain Capital with all the jobs that they killed, I’m sure he was worried that he’d run out of pink slips,” Perry told the crowd at Mama Penn’s restaurant.

Perry laid into Romney for heading a company which Perry alleged eliminated hundreds of South Carolina jobs.

“There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business and I happen to think that’s indefensible,” said Perry. “If you’re a victim of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it’s the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain, because he caused it.”


It must really be crunch time — Rick Perry’s campaign rhetoric is getting sharper and more interesting.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.