LITTLETON, N.H. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stepped up his attacks on rival Mitt Romney on Thursday, accusing the GOP presidential front-runner of "accommodating the left" and airing a new TV ad in New Hampshire that criticizes Mr. Romney by name.
"I fought for tax cuts," Mr. Gingrich told supporters at a town-hall meeting here. "As governor, Gov. Romney raised taxes. I fought for conservative judges. As governor, Gov. Romney appointed liberal judges.
"He said he did so to accommodate the Democrats. Are we sending somebody to Washington to accommodate the left, or are we sending someone to Washington to defeat and change the left?"
Mr. Gingrich's criticism of the former Massachusetts governor was among the most forceful as the trailing GOP presidential contenders sought to convince New Hampshire voters before Tuesday's primary election that Mr. Romney lacks true conservative credentials and would be a weak standard-bearer against President Obama. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas also went on the air in New Hampshire with an ad that warned that nominating Mr. Romney "is a recipe for defeat" in November.
For his part, Mr. Romney mostly steered clear of his rivals, launching an attack instead on Mr. Obama for engaging in "crony capitalism" and appointing union-friendly "stooges" to the National Labor Relations Board this week.
"He's a job killer," Mr. Romney said at a town hall meeting in Salem, N.H., before flying to South Carolina for a campaign event with Gov. Nikki Haley. But a tea-party official in South Carolina, Karen Martin, also voiced concern about Mr. Romney's momentum, saying, "I do not personally know anyone that does not despise Mitt Romney and doesn't hate the idea of him being our nominee."
Polls, including one Wednesday conducted by The Washington Times and JZ Analytics, show Mr. Romney holding on to a commanding lead in New Hampshire just days after a narrow win in the Iowa caucuses.
But in events across New Hampshire on Thursday and on the airwaves, his challengers tried to knock down Mr. Romney's claims that he is guided consistently by conservative principles.
Mr. Gingrich served as the point of that spear, reciting at campaign stops a list of Mr. Romney's moderate transgressions while governor.
"I developed the Contract with America, which called for balancing the budget, cutting taxes and reforming welfare," Mr. Gingrich said in Littleton. "Gov. Romney, in 1994, running for the Senate to the left of Teddy Kennedy, said he was against the Contract with America."
He added, "I am pro-life. Gov. Romney signed 'Romneycare,' which includes tax-paid abortions. I am [pro] Second Amendment. Gov. Romney said he was fine with Massachusetts gun control. I'm just suggesting to you that he is a legitimate Massachusetts moderate. Romneycare became the basis for Obamacare — that's what President Obama says."
Mr. Romney's surrogates fought back. Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican, said Thursday that criticism of Mr. Romney's conservative credentials is overblown.
"If you look at his record as a governor, if you look at his positions on the issues, if you look at particularly his experience on economic and fiscal issues, he is a down-the-line, right-of-center conservative," Mr. Thune told The Washington Times-affiliated "America's Morning News" radio program.
"I know he may not be conservative enough for some people out there, but this is somebody who is going to govern in a very conservative way ... in the tradition of a Ronald Reagan," he told program hosts John McCaslin and Dana Mills.
Mr. Gingrich has been endorsed by New Hampshire's largest newspaper, the Union-Leader of Manchester, whose publisher Joe McQuaid warned Thursday that Mr. Romney "would get run over by Obama."
"They [Republicans] are going to have to coalesce around the strongest conservative candidate" if they want to win, Mr. McQuaid told national radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham. "Selling this idea that Mitt Romney is the best guy to go up against Obama, I just think, is wrong, which is why we went for Gingrich in the first place. Obama, you know what his game plan is, and it's going to be the 1 [percent] versus the 99 percent. Now that's a bunch of BS, but that is going to play well with a lot of people, and who better exemplifies the 1 percent than Mr. Mitt Romney, for crying out loud?"
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