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Romney v. McCain

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Lauren Appelbaum

Romney and McCain went up with dueling advertisements in New Hampshire. And both have very different tones.

Romney, the only candidate to run contrast TV ads so far this campaign season, is up with another -- this time against McCain, who won the Granite State primary in 2000. At least one poll showed McCain and Romney in a statistical tie in the state. Romney has lead by double-digits there for most of the campaign season.

"John McCain, an honorable man. But is he the right Republican for the future?" says an announcer over ominous music. The announcer then says McCain is against a repeal of the estate tax, voted against Bush tax cuts and "pushed to let every illegal immigrant stay here permanently."

Above more hopeful music, the announcer says, "Mitt Romney cut taxes and spending as Governor. He opposes amnesty for illegals. Mitt Romney. John McCain. There is a difference."

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McCain, ardently opposed to earmarks, will likely take issue with the implication that he is not strong on reducing spending.

Romney's first contrast ad went up in Iowa, laying out the differences between his governing record and that of Huckabee -- on immigration and crime.

McCain also has a new ad up, but unlike Romney's ad which attacks McCain, the Arizona Senator's new ad highlights his newspaper endorsements, including the New Hampshire Union Leader and the Portsmouth Herald. "Endorsed" will run on New Hampshire and Boston television.

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The McCain campaign shot back with an e-mail trying to dismiss each of the charges in the Romney ad (and takes some shots at Romney's record.) Another e-mail from the campaign features a Chicago Tribune article from Wednesday, which highlights criticism of Romney and how he might respond to a tightening race. The article notes that Romney "has not yet decided whether to air any 'contrast' or negative ads.

"This morning's events seem to call into question his candor, as if another example was needed," a McCain spokesman wrote in an e-mail to reporters.

In an e-mail release of its own on the ad, the Romney campaign writes, "On election day, Republicans will have a choice between two very different records and visions for our future."