After Iowa, Romney Hopes to Pull Away in N.H.

By David Espo and Kasie Hunt - January 5, 2012

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McCain and Romney clashed sharply as rivals in 2008 before reconciling for the fall campaign.

The Arizona senator did well among younger and independent voters in his two New Hampshire primary campaigns. Now, in a supporting role, he said, "Our message to President Obama is, you can run but you can't hide from your record."

Romney was more scathing. Paraphrasing the president, he recalled, "He said, 'If I can't turn this economy around in three years, I'll be looking at a one-term proposition.'

"Well, I'm here to collect," he added.

Before leaving Iowa, Romney made the round of early morning interview programs, sounding at times more like an analyst of a race than a competitor.

"I think there's a real boost coming out of Iowa, not just for me but also of course for Rick Santorum and Ron Paul," he said.

At the same time, he brushed aside suggestions that his share of the vote in Iowa, less than 25 percent, was a sign of weakness.

"Ronald Reagan got 29 percent of the votes here and ultimately he was able to become our nominee," said, referring to the 1980 campaign that put Republicans in the White House.

He had a stiffer response to Gingrich, who refused to extend congratulations in the wake of the Iowa outcome.

"I'm sure he's disappointed in the results last night. But I expect he'll go on and mount a spirited campaign," he said.

Spirited might be an understatement, given the sharp escalation in rhetoric from the former House speaker in the final hours in Iowa. His campaign purchased a full-page advertisement in the Union Leader, New Hampshire's largest newspaper, calling Romney a Massachusetts moderate.

Talking with reporters in Concord, N.H., Gingrich described himself as a "conservative leader for the last generation," and depicted Romney as something entirely different.

"In that same time period, Gov. Romney was first an independent, then repudiated Reagan-Bush, then voted for Paul Tsongas, the most liberal candidate in the '93 campaign, then ran to the left of Teddy Kennedy and then became a moderate to run for governor in Massachusetts in 2002."

Gingrich accused his rival of including state-funded abortions in the health care legislation he signed into law in Massachusetts and said he had "specifically designated Planned Parenthood as a part of Romney care, appointed liberal judges to placate Democrats and raised taxes on business..."

"I suspect it's going to be a very lively campaign," he added.

Gingrich was briefly the leader in opinion polls in Iowa, before his support eroded under the weight of attack ads by a super PAC run by Romney's allies. Short of funds, the former speaker was unable to respond in kind, and declared he would run only a positive campaign.

Having jettisoned that approach, it is unclear how much money his campaign has left after Iowa, and how willing a separate super PAC set up to support him is to spend.

Personally, Romney was able to remain largely above the fray in Iowa's ad wars, generally running positive commercials while his allies took on Gingrich and other rivals.

Except for appearing at debates, Perry is not expected to compete in New Hampshire, saving his energy and cash for South Carolina.

In bowing out, Bachmann bestowed no endorsement. Nor did she say if she intended to seek re-election to the House from Minnesota. 

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

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