Republican rivals target Romney

2012-01-09 20:50

New Hampshire - Mitt Romney's rivals hustled on Monday on the final day of campaigning for the New Hampshire primary to try to deprive him of a landslide victory and slow his drive for the Republican presidential nomination.

Romney, who narrowly won the vote in caucuses in Iowa last week, is heavily favoured to win Tuesday's primary, the party's second nominating contest.

A big win would give him momentum as the candidates turn their attention to the next contest, the January 21 primary in South Carolina.

South Carolina could be pivotal. It is a conservative southern state where Romney, a relative moderate, finished fourth in the 2008 primary. But recent polls show Romney with a strong lead.

A win there by Romney could create the impression that he will be the inevitable nominee to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in November.

Opponents have all but conceded that Romney will win New Hampshire. He is the former governor of the neighboring state of Massachusetts and has spent the better part of two years courting voters in the state, where he has a vacation home.

But his rivals are vying for a strong second-place showing that could establish them as the main anti-Romney alternative going into South Carolina.

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, demanded on Monday that Romney tell the public more about how he operated as a venture capitalist.

Gingrich said on NBC's Today show that Romney "owes us a report on his stewardship" of Bain Capital in the last several years, arguing that the Republicans can't have a nominee who will be vulnerable to Obama campaign charges of corporate raiding.

Strong showing

On Sunday, Gingrich assailed Romney as a "Massachusetts moderate" and promoted a video being released by his allies that attacks Romney's business career.

The Gingrich-leaning Winning Our Future organisation said that a 28-minute online video - which assails Romney for "reaping massive awards" while head of Bain Capital - may show up on TV in the coming weeks.

Gingrich himself came under attack in weekend debates with his Republican rivals for his lucrative work as a Washington consultant after he left the Congress.

In a Monday appearance in the city of Nashua, Romney kept above the Republican fray and went after the Obama administration for the soured taxpayer investment in Solyndra, a solar energy company that went bankrupt and laid off its 1 100 workers after getting a $528m energy department loan.

He said government should support the conditions for letting the private sector work freely, not interfere on behalf of specific companies. "Let markets work," he preached.

Romney's rivals from Gingrich to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman all planned campaign stops in southern New Hampshire.

Romney won the Iowa caucuses last week by a scant eight votes over Santorum.

Santorum was followed by Texas Republican Ron Paul, with Gingrich fourth, Texas Governor Rick Perry fifth and Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann in last place. She has since quit the race.

Huntsman skipped Iowa in hopes of a breakout showing in New Hampshire.

A moderate Republican who served as Obama's ambassador to China, Huntsman will have a tough time remaining in the race if he doesn't have a strong showing on Tuesday.

Perry is skipping New Hampshire to campaign full-time in South Carolina in hopes of reviving his candidacy.

In a Monday appearance, Perry took a swipe at Romney, accusing him of being cavalier as a businessman about laying off workers.