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2012: Wrapping up yesterday's debate

The Washington Post on yesterday’s NBC/Facebook debate: “Mitt Romney’s opponents, seizing upon what could be one of their last opportunities to blunt his accelerating momentum toward the GOP presidential nomination, trained their fire on the front-runner Sunday.”

The New York Times: “In the debate, hosted by “Meet the Press” and Facebook, Newt Gingrich disputed Mr. Romney’s assertions that he was not a lifetime politician, saying, ‘Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?’ ‘You have been running consistently for years and years and years,’ Mr. Gingrich said, looking directly at his rival. He added: ‘Just level with the American people. You’ve been running for — at least since the 1990s.’” 

The Austin American-Statesman headline out of the NBC-Facebook debate: “In Sunday debate, Romney, others draw fire; Perry mostly ignored.”

“A combative Newt Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of "pious baloney" Sunday and charged him with hiding behind inaccurate attack ads aired by allies in the increasingly rancorous race for the Republican presidential nomination,” AP writes of the NBC-Facebook debate. It adds: “It was the most intense exchange of a weekend debate double header, run-up to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.”

The Concord Monitor of the NBC-Facebook debate: “The rest of the Republican presidential field pummeled Mitt Romney during their final shared appearance before the New Hampshire primary with charges designed to undercut his identity as a conservative businessman. The debate yesterday morning at Concord's Capitol Center for the Arts was far feistier than the exchange that concluded 10 hours earlier at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. But while Romney's five Republican opponents levied some of their most pointed critiques at him, Romney seemed to take most of the jabs in stride.”

Per a CBS poll: “In the race for the nomination, 19 percent of Republican primary voters support Romney, followed by Gingrich with 15 percent, and Santorum right behind him with 14 percent. This is an increase of 11 points for Santorum since last month, but a five point decline for Gingrich.”

The New Hampshire Union Leader cites Secretary of State Bill Gardner that about 325,000 will turn out Tuesday -- 250,000 in the Republican primary, 75,000 for the Democrats. “There are 30 Republicans and 14 Democrats on the New Hampshire Primary ballot,” the paper writes. What’s at stake? “If Romney fails to secure a big victory margin, it will be viewed nationally as a loss. A big New Hampshire victory will set up Romney as the strong favorite to win his party's nomination.”

“A new Quinnipiac poll in Florida finds Mitt Romney leading the GOP presidential race with 36%, followed by Newt Gingrich at 24%, Rick Santorum at 16%, Ron Paul at 10%, Rick Perry at 5% and Jon Huntsman at 2%,” Political Wire writes.

Gallup finds that a record-high 40% of Americans identified as political independents in 2011, while 31% said they were Democrats and 27% said they were Republicans,” Political Wire writes.

GINGRICH: “Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Sunday that he intends to remain in the Republican presidential race for months to come,” the Boston Globe says. “He laid out a strategy that relies on being in the top tier in upcoming primaries and declared that front-runner Mitt Romney is being weakened by attacks on his ‘moderate’ gubernatorial record and his background in corporate buyouts.” Gingrich told the Globe in an interview: “Think of this like the Super Bowl. The first few minutes have gone by and we learned how the other team plays. Now we are in the next possession. You have to assume Romney will win here and the question is how big the margin is. And how well will I do in getting the message out?”

In fact, Political Wire notes: Gingrich told “David Brody that one of his goals is to keep Mitt Romney ‘from being in the position to rush the nomination.’ Said Gingrich: ‘The longer this goes on, the more clear it is how un-conservative his record is, the more difficult it will be for Romney to survive in this race.’ He added: ‘If he's under 40% in one of his three strongest states, he has a big problem about trying to communicate why he should be the nominee.’”

“At a larger-than-expected town hall event at Pinkerton Academy on Sunday evening, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich laid out his claim as the best Republican alternative to defeat President Obama,” the New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

Here’s Gingrich to the New York Times, per Political Wire: "Those of us who believe in free markets and those of us who believe that in fact the whole goal of investment is entrepreneurship and job creation, we find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company, leaving behind 1,700 families without a job."

HUNTSMAN: The Boston Globe points out: “After months of speaking to crowds of 10 or 20 people, Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman today had to stand atop a coffee shop counter to be heard, as close to 300 people packed BeanTowne Coffee House and spilled out into the parking lot.”

The Concord Monitor said Huntsman yesterday was “bolder and more aggressive” on the campaign trail. And he took some swings at Romney for deriding Huntsman’s service in the Obama administration as China ambassador, charging that Romney "apparently . . . doesn't believe in putting country first."

PAUL: He won’t compete in Florida. Per National Journal: "Dr. Paul will compete in Florida and do well,'' Paul spokesman Jesse Benton wrote in an e-mail on Sunday. "With the delegate penalization, Florida becoming winner-take-all with only 50 delegates, we will spend limited money and stick to largely grassroots campaigning. Our campaign will focus financial resources on South Carolina, Nevada, Maine and other states heading into Super Tuesday.''

“At a campaign event that drew more than 300 people here late Sunday afternoon, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) defended his Israel policy in response to a question from an undecided voter, an answer that included, in part, the suggestion that Israel ‘should be the Hong Kong of the Middle East,’” the Washington Post writes. He said, “’We should be friends” with Israel. “We should trade with them. I would encourage them to become the Hong Kong of the Middle East, or something like that. You know, have a really affluent society.”

PERRY: “Rick Perry returned to the presidential campaign trail on Sunday with a fire-and-brimstone rallying cry to evangelical Christians whose allegiance in the South Carolina primary will be a pivotal force in the Republican nomination race,” The L.A. Times writes, adding, “Faith in Jesus Christ, Perry told the Beacon diner crowd, was part of what led him to resume the campaign after he was trounced in the Iowa caucuses. ‘When you find that peace from God, you stop worrying about what the critics say,’ Perry said.”

ROMNEY: “For months, Mitt Romney has seldom been challenged on his claim that his leadership at Bain Capital LLC offers evidence that he knows how to create jobs. That has ended as his Republican rivals are accusing him of exploiting companies and firing workers in a quest to make millions,” Bloomberg writes.

The DNC goes up with its first video hitting Romney on job losses at Bain.

Romney’s up with is own Web video, which hits hopeful notes and urges New Hampshire voters to vote for him. It closes with this on screen, “Make history. Earn it for Mitt.”

“Anyone who has ever been to a show, play, or concert knows the producers always save the best for last,” the Boston Globe writes. “That’s why it was curious tonight when Mitt Romney, a presidential candidate, handed over the microphone to Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, to wrap up their appearance at Exeter High School. But then Christie started to speak and it became clear it was Romney who was the warm-up act for the governor, not the other way around.”

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie brought his ‘loud mouth’ to New Hampshire yesterday to stump for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney just days before the nation’s first presidential primary,” the New York Post writes. Romney said of Christie: “He knows how to make things happen. … He is going to make it happen tonight. He’s going to tell us how to win this election New Jersey-style.”

Burnishing his every-man credentials, Romney said this at another event: “I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re gonna get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.” (By the way, he got a pretty big crowd at that event – about 600 people, in addition to another event in which he got between 800 and 1,000.)

The New York Post: “Mitt Romney must have a target painted on his forehead.” It notes that he has dipped in the Suffolk tracking poll and, “The primary is critical for Romney, who would make history by winning both in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then head into conservative South Carolina with significant momentum — possibly on track to clinch the Republican nomination by next month. If he fails to achieve a decisive victory in New Hampshire, he likely faces a grueling battle for the nomination. The rest of the Republican field tried to make that a reality yesterday by ganging up on Romney at an NBC/Facebook-sponsored debate.”

Bloomberg: "Romney Battles New Hampshire Expectations as Foes Vie for Second."

The Post also reports in talking to voters: “Many conservative voters who backed Mitt Romney in New Hampshire’s Republican primary four years ago won’t be there for him in the voting booth tomorrow. The biggest issue, they said, are questions about his chops as a true conservative.”

But he still leads in the latest WMUR/UNH poll, which “shows Romney leading with 41%, followed by Paul at 17%, Huntsman at 11%, Santorum at 11%, Gingrich at 8%, Rick Perry at 1% and Buddy Roemer at 1%,” Political Wire writes.

And it also notes: “For the first time, the Gallup daily tracking poll shows Mitt Romney breaking through his previous ceiling of support.”

The DNC hits Romney in a video for saying in the NBC-Facebook debate that he didn’t see the Super PAC ads and then goes on to quote them.

SANTORUM: “An uncompromising gun rights organization, which previously attacked Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, is now going after his Republican rival, Rick Santorum,” the Boston Globe writes. “The National Association for Gun Rights launched robo-calls against Santorum this weekend, after publishing an anti-Santorum letter on its website last week. The group says Santorum never filled out its survey, and claims he has a ‘long history of supporting gun control.’ But William Cahill, Santorum’s New Hampshire campaign co-chair, says the campaign never received any survey.”