The day before the New Hampshire primary, Mitt Romney is still way ahead in the polls, better organized than any of his GOP rivals and is again coming out on top as the better contender to take on President Obama.

So when he used the line “I like being able to fire people” — which takes on a different meaning in its full context, his rivals pounced. Rick Perry even adopted a ringtone.

The comment was somewhat bizarre coming from a candidate who has, most often, defaulted to caution. While his campaign immediately pointed out the context of the remark — he was talking about services, not his record at Bain Capital — it doesn’t seem to have made any difference to rivals who need anything to give hope to a better-than-expected showing in the Granite State.

Chances are this comment will show up in an ad. Undoubtedly watching all of this is the Obama campaign, which cried foul over the way that Romney took one of Obama’s quotes out of context for an ad to make it seem like he said, in 2008, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” In fact, Obama was quoting from the McCain campaign.

Less important than the context, though, may be the way that Romney said it: Emphatically. The clip is being played over and over again today, and if it ends up doing lasting harm to Romney, he look to Obama for some solace in how stray comments can haunt you, so close to primary day in New Hampshire. Brushing off a question about Hillary Clinton during their 2008 New Hampshire debate, Obama said, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” It, too, may have needed the proper context, but in the replay that followed, it came across as arrogant and condescending.