Romney absorbs attacks in last debate before New Hampshire vote

CONCORD, NH (WWBT) - It was the final debate before voters go to the polls in the first in the nation primary.   This morning in a special edition of NBC's "Meet The Press", the six remaining republican candidates worked to make their mark with New Hampshire voters.

It was the last opportunity for the candidates to knock down the front runner former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts), and they wasted no time before going on the attack.

It started with a tag team attack, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Virginia), roughing up Romney.

Santorum challenged Romney on his decision to not run for re-election when he was governor.

"As for the president of the United States, if I'm elected, of course I'll fight for a second term," said Romney.  "There's a lot of work to be done."

That is when Gingrich jumped in.

"Mitt, I realize the red light doesn't mean anything to you, because you're the frontrunner," said Gingrich to applause. "But -- but can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is, you ran in '94 and lost."

It wasn't just Romney versus Gingrich, former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) who has staked his entire campaign on New Hampshire got involved as well.

"With respect to Governor Romney, you know, there are a lot of people who are tuning in this morning, and I'm sure they're terribly confused after watching all of this political spin up here," he said.

Huntsman is battling for second place, with the race's wild card Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) Who's support remains strong and steady, but perhaps not enough to win.

"You know that demonstrates how out of touch the U.S. government and the U.S. Congress is with the American people," said Paul in reaction to a question from moderator David Gregory about his poor rate of success in the U.S. Congress.  "Because I'm supporting things that help the American people."

And while Romney seems poised to capture New Hampshire, The conservatives still remaining are pinning their hopes on the next state South Carolina, which means doing everything they can to stand out.

"There's a bunch of people standing up here that say they're conservatives, but the records don't follow up on that," charged, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas).

Early polls show Romney in the lead in South Carolina as well. If he runs the table in Iowa, New Hampshire and then South Carolina it would be hard to imagine there will be much of a nomination contest left, by the time the primary season rolls around to Virginia in early march.

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