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Romney faces criticism from rivals

Mitt Romney's Republican presidential rivals have piled on the criticism in an attempt to knock the front-runner off course ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

His opponents started assailing him in the second of two back-to-back weekend debates featuring all the candidates, and then continued at their individual appearances across New Hampshire and South Carolina - the next state to vote.

They attempted to appeal to those Republican voters unexcited at the prospect of Mr Romney being the party's choice to challenge President Barack Obama in November.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused Mr Romney of "pious baloney" for saying he is not a career politician, demanding that he "just level with the American people". But Mr Romney fired back on that occasion during the debate on Sunday morning, but by that evening, he had also taken shots from fellow candidates Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry.

Mr Santorum made a beeline to the conservative upstate of South Carolina to trumpet the endorsement of former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer. There, he alluded to Mr Romney's position switches on a series of issues, saying: "We've got a lot of candidates that just adapt to whatever the environment is... I don't, because the truth doesn't change."

Looking to revive his flagging candidacy, Mr Perry also swooped into the Southern state. The Texas governor told roughly 300 people at a restaurant in Spartanburg that his campaign, after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucuses, was like the last stand at the Alamo. He cast Mr Romney as an insider.

"We've got to have somebody that is an outsider that is not interested in tinkering around the edges - but that will go into Washington DC and overhaul that place," he said.

Mr Romney won the Iowa caucuses last Tuesday by just eight votes over Mr Santorum, but he is so far ahead in New Hampshire polls that his rivals have virtually conceded he will win there.

South Carolina comes next, on January 21, the first Southern state to hold a primary. While it is the contest where Mr Gingrich, Mr Santorum and the rest of Romney's rivals face an urgent need to slow his candidacy, Mr Romney noted that he has been endorsed by that state's governor, Nikki Haley.

Mr Santorum finished second in Iowa, followed by Ron Paul, with Mr Gingrich fourth, Mr Perry fifth and Michele Bachmann in last place. She has since quit the race. Mr Huntsman skipped Iowa in hopes of a breakout showing in New Hampshire.


From Belfast Telegraph