Romney left Des Moines for a town hall meeting here in New Hampshire, where a victory in the Jan. 10 primary has become even more important given Gingrich’s strength in Iowa and elsewhere. The former speaker made no public appearances Sunday.
“It’s very fluid,” Romney told reporters in Hudson. “These polls have bounced all over the place in the last year. . . . But I’m convinced I’ll be successful in this effort. I think I will become the nominee.”
With barely three weeks until the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich has opened up a healthy lead in the state. Romney remains ahead in New Hampshire, but his margin has shrunk. Polls released Sunday by NBC News and Marist show Gingrich with double-digit leads over Romney in South Carolina and Florida, whose primaries are the next two contests after Iowa and New Hampshire.
Romney had hoped Saturday’s debate, the first that featured Gingrich under attack and on the defensive, would help slow the former speaker’s rise. But Gingrich weathered the attacks without losing his composure, leaving Romney to look to Thursday’s debate in Sioux City, Iowa, for another opportunity.
Debates have played a significant role in the GOP race this year, and Thursday’s will be the last before the caucuses. The forum, which will be televised by Fox News, will become critically important in shaping some of the final impressions Iowa voters will form ahead of caucus night.
Meanwhile, the other Republican candidates took aim Sunday at the two leaders, arguing that they are both cut from the same establishment mold and would not bring the kind of conservative change being demanded by many Republicans in the party’s base.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, attempting to capitalize on an exchange in Saturday’s ABC News-Yahoo News-Des Moines Register debate, said that Romney’s challenge of a $10,000 bet to settle an argument over health care showed that Romney is out of touch with Iowa voters. Perry said on ABC’s “This Week” program that as he drove to the interview Sunday morning, he was sure “I didn’t drive by a house that anyone in Iowa would even think about that a $10,000 bet was possible.”
The Democratic National Committee also pounced on Romney’s $10,000 wager offer by posting a video ridiculing the former Massachusetts governor, while the campaign of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. launched a Web site, www.
10kbet.com, tweaking Romney.