They’re not counting on a win — but Mitt Romney’s five Republican opponents are hoping to finish well enough in today’s New Hampshire primary to prove they’re still in the race, so they can challenge him again in South Carolina and Florida.

They believe that a narrow-than-expected win for Romney will provide more evidence that Republicans still have doubts about him.

Jon Huntsman says if he can chug out of the New Hampshire primary “with a head of steam” he can prove he’s the Republican candidate who can defeat Barack Obama. But on NBC’s “Today” show, he wouldn’t say whether he would leave the race if he doesn’t finish in the top three.

The rivals yesterday pounced on Romney’s comment that he likes to be able to “fire people.” But today, they’ve pulled back — noting that he was talking about letting people change health insurance providers.

Rick Santorum says he’s “not going to play gotcha politics.” Newt Gingrich says it would be “totally unfair” to take Romney’s remarks out of context.

Santorum, who finished in a virtual dead-heat in Iowa, says there hasn’t been enough time to capitalize on that momentum before New Hampshire. Before shaking hands this morning outside a polling place in Manchester, he said he’d be content to pull a double-digit percentage of the votes.

Ron Paul has been running a strong second to Romney in New Hampshire for much of the year — so third place may become a highly-coveted spot.


Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry is likening front-runner Mitt Romney’s former private equity firm to “vultures” that ruin workers’ lives.

Perry is sharpening his attack in hopes of drawing a clearer contrast on jobs with Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who touts his business credentials. The issue has special salience in South Carolina, where unemployment is high.

Addressing a retiree community in South Carolina, Perry criticized Romney’s Bain Capital firm for two business deals that caused job losses in the state. He said private equity firms are “just vultures” that feed off sick companies no matter the human toll.

Perry often boasts of fostering the addition of a million jobs as Texas governor.

Perry was alone in South Carolina Tuesday while his rivals were in New Hampshire for the primary.



    Huntsman Hopes To Build Steam In NH Primary

    Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says if he can chug out of the New Hampshire primary “with a head of steam” he can prove he’s the Republican candidate who can defeat Barack Obama.

    With Mitt Romney favored in Tuesday’s voting and most of the rest of the field vying to become the conservative alternative, Huntsman is taking a different path. He says the GOP needs a nominee who can reach beyond Republicans to win over people who voted for Obama in 2008. Huntsman says his supporters include independents and even a few Democrats.

    Asked on NBC’s “Today” show whether he would leave the race if he doesn’t place at least third in New Hampshire, Huntsman declined to say.

    Gingrich Confident Of Staying In Race After NH

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he hopes to finish in the “top three or four” in the New Hampshire primary and go on to confront front-runner Mitt Romney in South Carolina.

    With voting under way, Gingrich tells Fox News Channels “Fox & Friends” he believes “the biggest story today” is that Romney will fall short of “any reasonable expectation” in New Hampshire, particularly since the former Massachusetts governor has been heavily favored there all along.

    Gingrich says people expected the state to be Romney’s for the asking, but adds, “I don’t think it’s going to be much of a fortress.” Gingrich also says he believes a controversial statement Romney made about firing people was likely “taken out of context” and he isn’t going to press the issue. The former speaker did say he didn’t think the remark was “well-worded.”

    In Dixville Notch, It’s A Romney-Huntsman Tie

    Voters in the tiny New Hampshire village famed for casting the first ballots in the nation’s first presidential primary have found themselves in a tie between Republicans Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

    Nine ballots were cast in New Hampshire’s Dixville Notch just after midnight. Romney and Huntsman received two votes each. Coming in second with one vote apiece were Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

    For the Democrats, President Barack Obama received three votes. The nine residents who cast their ballots include three registered Republicans and two registered Democrats. Four other voters haven’t declared a party.

    Dixville Notch is an unincorporated village in northern New Hampshire just below the Canadian border. The town clerk, Rick

    Erwin, says that the nine registered voters make up the entire Dixville Notch population.


    (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)