Newt Gingrich, acknowledging that the Granite State is Romney country, attacked the current front-runner as a Massachusetts moderate, but he saved his sharpest criticism for Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), whose supporters showed up outside a Gingrich event here with a poster of a famous New York tabloid cover depicting Gingrich, clad in diapers and wielding a rattle, as a crybaby.
On the airwaves, Paul, who will hold his first post-Iowa-caucus events here Friday, attacked Romney and Gingrich as being too close to Washington.
And Rick Santorum, fresh off a near-win in Iowa, pushed back against Gingrich, who dismissed the former senator from Pennsylvania as a “junior partner” during their time in Congress.
Santorum also forcefully tried to strip Gingrich of some of the credit for the 1994 Republican Revolution, which made Gingrich speaker of the House and is central to his claim that he is the truest conservative in the field.
“He sat on the sideline when I was out there putting my face and putting my reputation out to try to reform Congress,” Santorum told reporters in Northfield. “I think that tells you who’s got the courage to stand up and fight.”
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who has lagged in the polls but devoted intense energy to New Hampshire, got a boost Thursday when he won the endorsement of the Boston Globe, Romney’s home-state newspaper.
But with a single weekend of campaigning left before Tuesday’s primary, with 23 delegates up for grabs, most candidates seemed split on whom to take the fight to — and unsure as to how to make their lines stick.
Beyond that, their messages and their reasons for running are coming across as muddled to some voters, who have been bombarded with ads and mailings.
Santorum, who added $2 million to his campaign war chest in the two days since his surprise second-place finish in Iowa, faced boos at a stop in Durham as he answered questions about his position on same-sex marriage. He is a longtime opponent of gay rights, which makes him popular with many conservative voters.
But while speaking at New England College, he was challenged on his position.
Santorum, who is accustomed to questioning from students and seems to somewhat relish it, first tried arguing that there is no compelling reason to change the laws banning same-sex marriage.
“Don’t you have to make a positive argument that the law should be changed?” he asked the crowd. “You, the person who wants to do this, tell me, what is the justification? What is the public purpose?” The event ended in boos for the candidate.