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Romney departs from his regular schedule to address a comment about firing people

HUDSON, N.H.—Mitt Romney convened a surprise press conference this afternoon, after touring a metal-fabrication shop here and making his case to the state’s blue-collar voters.

The press availability, which was not listed on the public schedule, came a few hours after Romney told an audience in Nashua that, in the context of insurance companies, he likes “being able to fire people,” which has been a central criticism of his record at the turnaround firm Bain Capital.

In front of a swarm of reporters encircling the state, Romney said he expected the “Obama people” would take it “out of context.”

“But as you know I was speaking about insurance companies and the need to be able to make a choice,” Romney said. “And my comments entirely reflected that, that we should be able to choose the insurance company of our choice. We should not have one forced on us by President Obama.”

The press conference also served to clear up a puzzling comment from yesterday, in which Romney told voters he had once been frightened of a “pink slip” too.

“As you probably know in your profession, you never quite know what’s going to happen and I think people imagine that I came in at the top of Bain and Company, the consulting firm, or the Boston Consulting Group,” he said. “I started at the bottom. I came out of school and I got an entry level position like the other people that were freshly minted M.B.A.s. And like anybody who starts at the bottom of an enterprise, you wonder, when you don’t do so well, whether you’re going to be able to hang onto your job and you wonder if the enterprise gets in trouble, you know, will you be one of those that’s laid off.”

Nursing a massive lead one day before New Hampshire voters go to the polls, Romney was ostensibly in Hudson to tour the Gilchrist Metal Fabrication plant.

“I like what you’ve done with this place!” Romney said from a small stage, with about 100 voters seated in folding chairs on the factory floor.

Romney avoided any mention of pink slips, and generally spoke about the need to lessen the burdens of government regulation on business, but, in the course of introducing the members of his family who were on hand—which included Ben, a doctor, who has mostly been absent from the trail—he also sort of slipped into talking about his probate attorney.

“I used to tell a story, partially true, about being with my lawyer and saying, ‘You know some time, when we die, we want to make sure that we give what we have to our five sons.’ And she said, ‘How much do you want to give your grandkids?’ And this is before we had any grandkids. And I said, ‘None, nothing, just give it to our boys and then they can give to their kids as they feel appropriate.’ And she said, ‘Well, you’ll change your mind.’ I said, ‘No I don’t think so.’ Now I have 16 grandkids and I saw my lawyer and I said, ‘I don’t want to give anything to my boys, I want to give it all to the grandkids.’”

Romney used the transition to make a point about how he was worried about the future, and he came back to a note he has struck lately on the campaign trail, in which he describes the words from his favorite national hymns.

He mentioned, again, his joke to Iowans that corn counted as an “amber wave of grain.”

“That got me an eight-vote margin. I’m hoping to get 16 here, okay, guys? We gotta double that,” he said, joking.

He also quoted: “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife before the self their country love and mercy more than life,” as a preface to recognizing the veterans in the crowd.

He had one more: “O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years,” which he used to say American principles should endure.

Romney said he would fight against making the country “a European-style welfare state.”

A few minutes later, during the question-and-answer portion of the event, Romney took a question from someone with a thick Germanic accent who introduced himself as a European from a “welfare state,” who wanted to know whether Romney feared some American impact from the European debt crisis.

Romney said he did.

Before he had wrapped up his remarks, Romney implored the crowd to get out and vote.

“There’s a way to vote more than once,” Romney said. “You find someone that didn’t vote and you get them to go with you. You just ask somebody, if you got a shut-in nearby, or somebody who might not have thought about voting, give them a call, give them a ride.”

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