In Tuesday evening’s presidential debate from New Hampshire, Mitt Romney defended the Wall Street bailouts—the No. 1 target of conservative and tea party rage.
Romney said the bailouts had been mismanaged, but he supported the actions taken by the George W. Bush administration to “make sure you don’t lose the country and you don’t lose the financial system.”
The debate, at Dartmouth College in Hanover, was sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post.
“We could have had a complete meltdown,” Romney said. “Action had to be taken. Was it perfect? No. Was it well implemented? Not particularly.” He restated, in particular, his opposition to the bailouts of the auto industry.
The answer isn’t likely to endear Romney to conservatives who already are skeptical of the former Massachusetts governor. The bailouts gave rise to the tea party movement—and its members remain some of the most ardent foes of the Republican front-runner.
Romney’s rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was ready to pounce on Romney’s answer. His campaign sent out an email within minutes pointing out Romney’s support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
In turn, Romney’s campaign accused Perry of having supported a bailout of the financial services agency at the time.