Nightly News   |  January 06, 2012

Romney gains ground

New NBC News-Marist poll of NH Republicans shows Romney with a 20 point lead. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> huntsman picked up a newspaper endorsement from the boston globe . mitt romney was governor of massachusetts and is assuming he'll do well in nearby new hampshire . so well he spent today in south carolina even though they are two contests away and we are debuting our own poll tonight. for that we go to chuck todd in manchester, new hampshire . chuck, good evening.

>> reporter: well, good evening, brian. most of the republican candidates spun the new jobs numbers about the same. happy about the growth but critical of president obama saying his policies are slowing the grourt. it's a crucial weekend ahead. this might be the last chance for republicans not named mitt romney to make their best case for what is now a race for second. seemingly confident of his chances in new hampshire , mitt romney started his day on the trail in south carolina .

>> this president's failed the american people .

>> reporter: he ignored gop foes and focused on president obama 's record even as the new report showed improvement.

>> this president i don't think understands how the economy works.

>> reporter: two polls suggest romney is pulling away. in a brand new nbc news maris polls, romney enjoys a 20% lead. even in south carolina , romney 's up big. a new times cnn poll has him leading santorum by 18 points. santorum is stopping today at a gun store as he tries to build on the iowa momentum. with the attention comes scrutiny. today santorum pushed back on a washington post report that he parlayed senate access to make a fortune from his so-called k street lobbying.

>> i didn't profit on k street . i wasn't involved in any work at all on k street . i referred clients to folks and that was pretty much the extent of what i did.

>> reporter: at times santorum 's campaign seemed overwhelmed like today when a fire marshal interrupted an event. and last night when he was booed off stage by college students after comparing gay marriage to polygamy. still, santorum may benefit from key social conservatives who believe they need to rally around a single candidate.

>> there is concern that romney will win without having to face one concentrated effort of a conservative challenger.

>> reporter: newt gingrich struggling to hang on hopes to make romney 's massachusetts ties a liability.

>> he's a massachusetts moderate. the last two to be nominated dukakis and kerry, didn't have a good general election .

>> reporter: back to our poll. one of the most important things new hampshire voters say they have taken into account are the debates. the final debate takes place this sunday on "meet the press."