Mitt Romney’s new sidekick: the debt clock

August 25, 2011

Sure, he’s sometimes stiff. Mitt Romney has a bad rap for being, well, boring. But now he has a flashy new sidekick.

Meet the debt clock — a giant, green, glowing and growing debt clock.

Just before the Republican presidential candidate walked into a steamy gymnasium here Thursday for his fourth town hall meeting in two days, the clock reported the national debt at $14,658,049,919,888.88. The average debt per taxpayer was $131,119.

Sixty-five minutes later, when he bade farewell to a couple hundred clapping New Hampshire voters, the debt was $14,658,234,132,999.88. That meant $131,121 per taxpayer.

Throughout his give-and-take with voters here, Romney engaged with his clock. He gestured at it, bragged about it and was dead serious talking about it.


Throughout his give-and-take with voters in Dover, N.H., Thursday, Mitt Romney engaged with his debt clock. (Philip Rucker/The Washington Post)

“It’s a frightening thing here as we watch these tens of thousands of dollars going by second by second, hundreds of thousands of dollars going by by the minute,” Romney said. “I don’t know who told politicians that there was a number that was called a trillion, but they learned it, and now they’ve borrowed it.”

The clock’s debut begged this question: Where does someone buy a debt clock?

You can buy a lot of things on the Internet, but apparently not a debt clock.

So Romney’s aides built their own. They rented two giant flat-screen televisions and set them up on stage here. Then they designed a green styrofoam sign — it looks like the huge check awarded to Publishers Clearing House winners — to prop in front of the television screens with cut-outs for the numbers. The aides tied patriotic bunting below the screens.

Then they hooked up two computers (and two backups) to carry a live feed from one of the many “debt clocks” on the Internet.

And voila! A real, live debt clock.

As voters asked questions, Romney interspersed his answers with references to the clock.

Like this: “If I’m president of the United States, Mr. President, I’ll do a better job slowing down that clock and hopefully getting it to start reversing and getting Americans back to work.”

And this, a few minutes later: “Business, jobs the economy — that’s my wheelhouse. And I’m going to use those skills to get America back to work and to get that clock to slow down and to stop.”

The clock made an impact at least a few voters. When a Dover man rose to ask a question, he prefaced it with a comment.

“Thanks for bringing the clock,” he said. “I’m impressed.”

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