Romney Rivals Doubt Electability as They Fault His Views
Republican presidential rivals questioned the electability and conservative credentials of frontrunner Mitt Romney today during the final debate before the New Hampshire primary, saying he is the sort of professional politician he routinely criticizes.
The debate in Concord marked a departure from one held only 12 hours before in Manchester, where Romney’s opponents trained their fire on each other as they vied to become his principal challenger. Today, they targeted the former Massachusetts governor, who’s trying to establish a winning streak in the race.
“Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?” former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, referring to Romney’s assertion that he wasn’t a career politician.
The attacks this morning at a debate sponsored by NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Facebook and the New Hampshire Union Leader failed to rattle Romney. He countered by saying his competitors were part of Washington’s revolving door of serving in government and then cashing in as influence peddlers.
“I long for a day when instead of having people who go to Washington for 20 to 30 years, who get elected and then when they lose office, they stay there and make money as lobbyists,” Romney said. “I think it stinks.”
Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman Jr. turned their attention to challenging Romney as polls show him with at least a 15-point lead in the race just two days before the Jan. 10 primary.
A victory would set Romney on a path to locking up the nomination as no candidate has won both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary and not captured the nomination.
Huntsman, faulted by Romney during the previous debate for his tour as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China, sought to make his government service into a virtue.
“I was criticized last night by Governor Romney for putting my country first,” he said. “He criticized me while he was out raising money.”
Huntsman later in the day continued his broadside against Romney on the issue of service. “Romney has a bumper sticker that says, ‘Proud of America,’” Huntsman said after an appearance in Hampstead. “How can you be proud of America if you criticize serving the country?”