HANOVER, N.H. (AP) — With eyes on Mitt Romney, his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination prepared for what could be one of their last chances to level a devastating blow to the former Massachusetts governor on his home turf.

Health care, the environment and immigration all were ripe targets for Romney’s rivals and they hinted they were primed to contrast their records with his ahead of Tuesday evening’s debate. With time ticking down for them to derail Romney’s presidential campaign, the criticism was expected to take on a stronger tone.

“Gov. Romney personally insisted the government mandate requiring private citizens to buy health insurance be included in his Massachusetts government health care law,” said Mark Miner, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, seizing on conservatives’ disdain for Massachusetts’ mandate.

“It is becoming more and more clear that I am the only tried and true conservative running for president in 2012,” former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania told supporters ahead of the forum at Dartmouth College.

With the Republican presidential race moving closer to the first contests, scheduled around New Year’s Day, the candidates are turning to a scattershot effort to deny Romney the nomination by any means necessary. They are using his reversals on abortion and gay rights, his support for environmental policies and even his character.

His rivals hope that, when taken together, it could be enough to stop his second presidential bid. Romney has a comfortable lead in New Hampshire polling after virtually camping out in the state since his 2008 loss and building a strong statewide campaign network.

The debate was designed to be on the economy — voters’ top concern in a nation that recorded 9.1 percent unemployment last month — but there was scant chance Romney would be able to dodge questions about his record.

The criticism so far, though, has not thrown Romney off pace. Nothing, to this point, has started an exodus among his supporters. And time is running short for Romney’s rivals to make that happen.

While New Hampshire has yet to schedule its primary, it is likely to come before mid-January. That means there are fewer than 100 days for the newcomers to make inroads in New Hampshire, a state where Romney is well known, owns a vacation home and won a second-place finish in his 2008 presidential bid.

Looking to soften the criticism, Romney’s campaign announced that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was endorsing Romney. Christie, a conservative darling who had weighed a presidential bid of his own, was considered a top endorsement. Romney’s team hoped it would cement his standing and planned an afternoon photo opportunity with the two leaders.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, businessman Herman Cain, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were also set to join the debate.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (22)
  1. Jesus says:

    The people don’t want Romney, Perry, Huntsman, Bachmann or Gingrich. The people want Ron Paul, but the media pushes these choices? Come on, stop shoving fake choices down people’s throats. Google Ron Paul

  2. Robert says:

    If the people want Ron Paul why is he polling low numbers? The only people who want Ron Paul are the Ron Paul people and there seems like you in a small group.

    1. Jesus says:

      Did you google him, or are you just going to read media outlets? The same media outlets that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, we aren’t torutring, we’re not spying on Americans?

      Stop being told what to think for once and google him

      1. L. Lovelace says:

        I’m tired of Google trying to shove Ron Paul down our throats.

        1. Zing says:

          I don’t think L. Lovelace is tired of that.

      2. llp says:

        Ron Paul is a nut case

  3. smb says:

    I hope the other Republicans are successful in blocking Romney. He’s the only one I’m worried about in 2012.

    1. jan says:

      Well, Romney and Huntsman are the only ones I could support. The others are too far out in right field and think that their distorted version of Christianity is a requirement for a presidential candidate. Heaven help us if those fanatics get elected.

  4. Citizen says:

    From the October 11 blog of the Dismal Political Economist:

    “Bill Keller, who was formerly in charge of the New York Times is now writing a column for the op/ed page, and his column on the status of the Republican race for the party’s Presidential nomination ends with this

    The rest of us are left to recall the advice handed down 10 years ago by the late, wisecracking Cassandra of Texas politics, Molly Ivins: “Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”

  5. Tom says:

    I am Liberal and this is funny. The candidates that don’t have any chance at all are trying to block one candidate that nobody on the GOP / Tea party / Social conservatives are happy with from being the nominee.

    1. smb says:

      I hope they fall into the same trap that the Dems did in ’04.

  6. Zing says:

    This is awesome. The only guy who has a shot is being destroyed by the rest of them. If Romney does get a crack at it the right wing super fringe nut jobs might even try and run a tea party candidate as a third choice. Perfect!

    1. Tom says:

      @ Zing

      I think they are going to have difficult time trying to convince the hardcore nutjobs to back a candidate that they do not like because the Religion that Romney belongs to they consider it cult. Mormonism is no different than any other organized Religion. But the hardcore catholics believe that the only religion that should be followed is theirs.

  7. nobama says:

    Right now any one on that stage including Bachman would be a better president then what we have now, we cant afford 4 more years of this admin

    1. Tell us says:

      Why? Do you have any reasons?

  8. kl says:

    1. Obama believes unilateral disarmament will achieve a nuclear-free world

    2. Obama thinks evil regimes can be negotiated with

    3. Obama doesn’t believe America is fighting a global war

    4. Obama believes increasing spending and raising taxes leads to prosperity

    5. Obama thinks government-run health care is good for America

    6. Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism

    7. Obama believes alliances don’t matter

    8. Obama trusts Russia

    9. Obama believes the UN is indispensable

    10. Obama believes a federal Europe is good for America

    11. 4 Trillion 3 yrs

    1. Mark says:

      1. Obama believes unilateral disarmament will achieve a nuclear-free world
      -Couldn’t hurt, seriously, what else is there to do? Is launching a nuke ever really an option? It’s only the people with a single nuke that will dare use them and those people aren’t deterred by MADD.

      2. Obama thinks evil regimes can be negotiated with
      Given we haven’t the resources to outright conquer them, what is the alternative?

      3. Obama doesn’t believe America is fighting a global war
      I see no evidence of this, we seem to be fighting all around the globe, pushing our military to its limits.

      4. Obama believes increasing spending and raising taxes leads to prosperity
      Ok, how about everyone making less than $100k a year is instantly demoted to minimum wage and everyone over $100k pays no taxes. Precisely how would that help the economy. Is consumer spending going to rise? That is what the GOP is pushing for, lower incomes for the poor, higher for the rich. That leads to higher investing, not higher spending.

      5. Obama thinks government-run health care is good for America
      Well, what is the alternative? I suppose the private system is working well?

      6. Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism
      Why should he? What is it that makes us so exceptional? Even if we were the best country in the world by ever standard, what exactly would the point be of having no humility? America needs some serious work on a lot of fronts we’ve spent too much time believing we’re exceptional and not put enough effort into being exceptional.

      7. Obama believes alliances don’t matter
      Sure he does, he just knows an alliance is a living thing. Sometimes they change, sometimes they break. That is reality.

      8. Obama trusts Russia
      Calculated risk, what is the good of publicly denouncing Russia?

      9. Obama believes the UN is indispensable
      Well, it kind of is in today’s global world. Imagine a trade embargo on the US. The US isn’t self sufficient any longer and it doesn’t rule the world.

      10. Obama believes a federal Europe is good for America
      Again, global economy. Imagine the effect on our businesses if Europe hit a major depression due to the failed Euro.

      11. 4 Trillion 3 yrs
      Fortunately money is a tool and not a real resource like oil. Money is just a game, notice how they can just print more when it makes sense to them.

      1. haha says:

        Looks like kl has been schooled.

    2. Deep Thinker says:

      @kl….the same old stuff that Fox News tells you…….yawn…also good job Mark
      to actually call out one of these wacko’s that repeats everything force fed them

      1. Obama is a worthless loser says:

        “The average pay for securities industry employees in New York City rose 16.1% in 2010 to $361,330, almost six times greater than the average salary for other private sector jobs. While the median household income in America fell 3.2% during the recession from Dec. 2007 to June 2009, and then fell another 6.7% during the so-called ‘recovery’ from June 2009 through June 2011. Here, again, is why there’s so much anger and frustration with Wall Street: While ordinary Americans suffer from falling income, people in the securities industry have been minting money in recent years, thanks largely to massive taxpayer bailouts and the ongoing subsidies from the Federal Reserve.”—Wall Street Journal UNDENIABLY ON OBAMA’S WATCH!

  9. :) says:

    Thanks for your wisdom, deep throater….

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