- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Needing a win in the nation’s first primary state after a stunning defeat in Iowa, Mitt Romney lashed out last night at his Republican foes, ripping Mike Huckabee on foreign policy and Sen. John McCain over illegal immigration.

During a 90-minute, prime-time debate just three days before the New Hampshire primary, the former Mass- achusetts governor derided the Arizona senator’s guest-worker proposal as amnesty.

“You just described what most people would say is a form of amnesty,” said Mr. Romney, who is running an ad in the state that says Mr. McCain “wrote the amnesty bill that America rejected.”

The senator fired back because he also needs to win New Hampshire to keep his presidential aspirations alive and is surging in the latest state polls.

“It’s not amnesty,” he said last night, although he has long backed a path to citizenship for millions of illegals living in the country. “My friend, you can spend your whole fortune on these attack ads, but it still won’t be true.”

Mr. Romney spent $20 million in Iowa but lost by nine percentage points. He aggressively targeted his chief foes, including Mr. Huckabee, who won Iowa even though he was outspent 20-1. As he attacked his opponents, Mr. Romney often chided them for making the debate personal.

To Mr. McCain, he said: “Senator, is there a way to have this about issues and not about personal attacks?”

But Mr. McCain kept up his attack. He had just finished in a surprising tie for third in Iowa after all but abandoning the state.

When the candidates debated who best offers a new course for America, Mr. McCain ridiculed Mr. Romney for his flip-flops on major issues, saying to him, with a laugh: “We disagree on a lot of issues, but I agree, you are the candidate of change.”

Mr. Huckabee fired back, too, after Mr. Romney admonished him not to characterize his position on the Iraq war. “Which one?” he asked.

For the first time in months, the policies of President Bush became a top issue of debate. All but long-shot candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas voiced support for Mr. Bush’s policy to stay the course in Iraq. Most said there will be a lengthy war against radical Islamic extremists bent on killing Americans, which will require executive courage and the ability to look beyond the polls.

Mr. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and former Baptist minister, once derided the president for having what he called an “arrogant” foreign policy, but last night, he backtracked from those words.

“I was speaking to the fact that there were times when we gave the world the impression that we were going to ignore what they thought,” he said, “but the fact is, we’re going to do what is best for the American people.”

Eying Mr. Romney, he said: “I supported the surge when you didn’t.”

Mr. Romney’s campaign quickly e-mailed reporters with a Huckabee quote to a different effect. “Well, I’m not sure that I support the troop surge, if that surge has to come from our Guard and Reserve troops, which have really been overly stretched,” it said he told MSNBC last January.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who surprised political pundits by tying for third in Iowa after a lethargic campaign, also disputed Mr. Huckabee’s new version.

“I think that maybe the governor’s rethought his comments. … I don’t think our foreign policy has been arrogant. Presidents are not perfect. Policies are not perfect. But the bottom line is we are in a global war with radical Islam.”

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, running a distant fourth in New Hampshire and banking on his national security resume, also supported Mr. Bush’s decisions.

“I think the president got the big decision of his presidency right — the big decision that he made on September 20th, 2001, when he put us on offense against Islamic terrorism,” he said.

ABC News debate moderator Charles Gibson said he was going to violate his own rules and allow a question on video. He then showed Mr. Bush from his Dec. 20 White House press conference, posing a question to aspirants to his job.

“If I were asking questions to people running for office, I’d say: ‘What are the principles that [they] will stand on in good times and bad times?’ ” He said he would be “very hesitant” to support somebody who relied on opinion polls for making decisions.

Mr. McCain said that he alone among the Republican candidates supported the president’s surge of troops into Iraq, even as his poll numbers plummeted over the summer. “That was a low point, but I stuck to it. I didn’t change. I didn’t say we needed a secret plan for withdrawal. I said that we can prevail.”

Mr. Giuliani said what the president “had in mind is that at the core of leadership is knowing what you believe, standing for something. … Too many people in politics today put their finger up and go with the poll.”

The race in New Hampshire has changed quickly. Polls taken before the Iowa caucuses showed Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain in a dead heat, but the Arizona senator, who tied for third in Iowa, received a much larger bounce than the former Massachusetts governor.

A poll taken in the two days after the Iowa caucuses puts Mr. Romney at 27 percent, while Mr. McCain has surged to 33 percent. All others trailed by double digits, with Mr. Giuliani at 14 percent and Mr. Huckabee at 11 percent, according to the CNN-WMUR poll of 313 likely voters in New Hampshire.

Mr. Huckabee, who won over Iowa evangelicals to win the nation’s first presidential contest, got virtually no bounce from the win, moving up just one point in the latest poll.

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