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Oh-eight (R): Romney vs. McCain

"The battle between Mitt Romney and John McCain in New Hampshire's Republican primary took a significant turn yesterday as Romney unveiled his first television advertisement attacking McCain's record," the Boston Globe writes. McCain responded with an ad attacking Romney, using the words of two editorials, one of which describes Romney as a "phony."

Romney said this about the McCain ad, per NBC/NJ's Erin McPike, "It's nasty. It's mean-spirited. Frankly, it tells you more about Sen. McCain than it does about me that he would run an ad like that."

NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli was with McCain in New Hampshire, and he quotes McCain on the Romney ad exchange: "I was encouraged because it's clear that Gov. Romney attacks when people are catching up with him. And I understand why he's talking about the future since he's spent most of his time running away from his past. But we'll respond. And we have to respond, and we will respond. But we will conduct this campaign in a dignified manner, on the issues. The people of New Hampshire, I would like to tell Governor Romney, don't respond favorably to negative ad campaigns. That's not what the people of New Hampshire want when they choose a leader. And we won't engage in that kind of campaigning nor will we stoop to responding to a lot of it."

Huckabee also jumped to McCain's defense, notes NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy. "I'm kind of expecting to be attacked here in Iowa," he said. "We've spent one dollar for every twenty that Mitt Romney has spent in this state …and we're leading. We're ahead. And so when people get that far behind having spent that much money they get desperate… But then I saw the ad that [Romney's] using against Sen. McCain in New Hampshire."

Huckabee continued, "Now folks, Sen. McCain is -- I guess by many people's standards -- he's a rival. He's a candidate for president in the Republican Party like I am. But as I've said on national television and as I would say on any stage in America regardless of the politics, John McCain is a true, honest to God American hero, and we should respect him and honor him for who he is."

Slate's Dickerson has the scoop that one of the anti-Romney TV ads McCain has at the ready is an ad that was originally put together by two of Romney's current media consultants, Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer.

GIULIANI: Some 9/11 family members are not happy with Giuliani's ad, featuring 9/11.

HUCKABEE: The Boston Globe front-pages how Huckabee has raised the ire of the GOP establishment. "Huckabee's surge in recent weeks appears to have stunned and maddened the party's conservative hierarchy. While the GOP establishment hasn't lined up behind any other single candidate, it has steadily raised the volume of its objections to Huckabee as his plausibility as a candidate has grown."

And Huckabee's newest adviser is worried about all the negatives hitting his candidate. "A top Huckabee adviser fretted openly about the possible impact of a weekend of unanswered negative ads aimed at the underfinanced former Arkansas governor and about how the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto could prompt voters to evaluate candidates' credentials differently than they did a week ago. 'We don't see an erosion yet,' Ed Rollins, a veteran GOP strategist who recently joined Huckabee's campaign, said in a telephone interview. 'But you hope over the course of the next few days they don't start eroding our base.'"

And Rollins didn't rule out a paid response attack on Romney. "'If we think we're starting to bleed, we've got a book of stuff on him," Rollins said of Romney. 'We'll have to do it in person. Either Mike does it or I do it, but it doesn't have the impact of television. If we're really bleeding on Monday, we reserve the right to go back and defend ourselves."

MCCAIN: "I've been declared dead in this campaign on five or six occasions. I won't refer to a recent movie I saw, but I think I am legend," McCain said, according to the AP.

The Concord Monitor (NH), which recently wrote a blistering editorial criticizing Romney, has endorsed McCain. It's yet another newspaper endorsement for the Arizona senator.

ROMNEY: The Boston Globe devotes the entire right column of its front page to politics, including its top story, " Parenthood clinic funds OK'd under Romney." The article begins, "Former governor Mitt Romney's economic development agency granted initial approval to a tax-exempt bond last year for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Worcester that will provide abortions, just two months before he left office and began highlighting his antiabortion position as a presidential candidate." A Romney spokesman said, "He [Romney] did not know about this loan. It was made by an agency that does not report to the governor. If it did, he would have told them not to do it."

But one Tufts University professor said, "It is unusual that his people at the agency did not find a reason not to fund Planned Parenthood. His administration was clearly focused on his run for the presidency and making sure there was no embarrassment like this. It was an administration that was pretty efficient getting everyone operating on the same page and avoiding scandal."

More bad news for Romney? "A killer accused in the slaying of a newlywed couple in Washington state shortly after he was released from prison in Massachusetts should have been held behind bars for almost a year longer, but the Romney administration failed to file paperwork in time to take away his 'good time' credits," the AP writes.

One of the issues that Romney hasn't had to answer for too much is his lack of foreign policy experience. Well, he addressed that in an avail with reporters yesterday. Romney for the first time used his business background to talk about his international experience, notes NBC/NJ's Erin McPike. "I've done business in 20 different questions around the world before. I have traveled extensively and on the basis of my experience, I believe I have some perspective on issues that relate to our affairs with other nations."

More Romney: "I'm at the same position Ronald Reagan was in. I'm a person who has extensive experience making very difficult decisions, bringing together a great team of people and moving with the kind of leadership skills that allow us to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Ronald Reagan did it, I've done it throughout my career and I don't believe for a minute that America wants to have a state department employee type running the country. I think they want a leader. I'm not saying I'm the only leader -- there are others who are great leaders as well in our nation -- I'm not by any means the only. But I do believe that leadership still and the ability to make difficult decisions and experience running things is relevant to becoming president of the United States."