THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Candidate provides new fodder for rivals

Email|Print| Text size + By Michael Levenson and Sasha Issenberg
Globe Staff / December 5, 2007

Mitt Romney's Republican rivals wasted little time last night ridiculing him for his second go-round over illegal immigrants working at his home.

Campaigning in Bedford, N.H., Senator John McCain's first response to reporters asking about the issue was to giggle and pantomime mowing a lawn and clipping hedges.

"I'm more than pleased with the fact that I live in a condominium," McCain said, before restraining his laughter.

"Obviously, it's amazing, but he may have a perfectly good explanation."

Romney announced last night through his campaign that he had fired the company employing the illegal immigrants, after learning about them from the Globe.

The campaign of Rudy Giuliani, who at the Republican debate last week accused Romney of having a "sanctuary mansion" because of the illegal immigrants working on his lawn last year, issued a statement: "I think it speaks for itself."

Fred Thompson's campaign also seized on the issue.

"First Mitt Romney was FOR illegal immigrants working on his lawn, and then he was against it, then for it, and now I guess he's against it again," spokesman Todd Harris said in a statement. "Sounds like his position on amnesty."

Illegal immigration is one of the hottest issues in the Republican presidential race, drawing the candidates into a contest of who can be toughest.

The subject fueled some of the most fiery exchanges of last week's debate.

Romney has made cracking down on it a centerpiece of his campaign.

At campaign stops, he talks about completing a fence along the US-Mexico border, cutting off federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities, and creating a tamper-proof ID card for workers. He has blasted anyone who would hire illegal immigrants as "sanctuary employers," and his official policy booklet states that he wants to "crack down on employers who continue to hire illegals with stiffer fines and penalties."

The Democratic National Committee, which has criticized virtually every move Romney has made, didn't pass up the opportunity. Spokesman Damien LaVera e-mailed copies of the story to reporters covering the campaign with a single comment: "Really?!?!?!"

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