Nightly News   |  January 09, 2012

On the attack: Challengers unite in criticizing Mitt Romney

Gingrich challenges Romney’s authenticity, Rick Perry resorts to sarcasm, and Jon Huntsman says Romney can’t relate to ordinary Americans. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. for a small state it can be a giant killer. new hampshire also has a funny way of deciding the next nominee for the presidency and they are just finally proud of that. they vote tomorrow the first primary of the season. we'll see you from there tomorrow night. the hours until then, it's a mad scramble because political fortunes can be won and lost there. and because mitt romney has a house there and was governor of the state next door, it's always been considered something of a race for second place, but make no mistake, mitt romney is under incoming fire for his words and his record, and with our team in place tonight, it's where we begin this evening with nbc's peter alexander . peter, good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening to you. the stakes in new hampshire are clear. one senior huntsman advisor told me the final 24 hours , the last-ditch effort is to make sure mitt romney leaves this state stumbling. the sentiment shared by other candidate as they try to improve their chances of coming out on top. in the waning hours before tomorrow's first in the nation primary, the race has taken a nasty turn. with mitt romney 's challengers united to block his path to the republican nomination.

>> i can stand the heat. now we'll see if he has broad shoulders and he can stand the heat.

>> reporter: newt gingrich who until now promised to run a positive campaign today acknowledged he changed his mind.

>> i don't believe the other person sets the standard of being tough that you back off so you can't defend yourself.

>> reporter: the bitterness became more intense sunday when gingrich challenged romney 's authenticity.

>> politics is not a career. my life's passion has been my family, my faith and my country.

>> can we drop a little of the pius baloney?

>> reporter: rick perry sarcastically responded to this romney comment.

>> i know what it's like to worry whether you're going to get fired.

>> i have no doubt that mitt romney was worried about pink slips , whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out.

>> reporter: in an interview with nbc news today, jon huntsman says romney can't relate to ordinary americans.

>> he's terribly out of touch with the reality playing out on the ground in this country.

>> reporter: this bitter back and forth spilled into south carolina where the next primary is two weeks away. a spending spree of negativity with gingrich supporters releasing $3 until in ads, using clips from this scathing movie about bayne capital.

>> a group of corporate raiders led by myth romney , more ruthless than wall street .

>> reporter: supporters fired back, buying nearly $1 million worth of air time . one more thing, earlier today mitt romney told voters in new hampshire , i like being able to fire people . he was speaking specifically about health insurance companies that provide bad service. his opponents jumped on that. the rick perry campaign offering supporters a downloadable ring tone of that line. tonight mitt romney 's campaign says those words were taken out of context.

>> you're right, peter. rightly or wrongly, that turned out to be the sound bite of the day for him. peter alexander from new hampshire tonight.