Nightly News   |  January 10, 2012

Decision day in New Hampshire

NBC’s Peter Alexander reports from Romney’s headquarters at the University of Southern New Hampshire.

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

>>> good evening in manchester, new hampshire tonight, where they are still voting for a little while longer. the first election this season is hours from history. this is a huge moment for mitt romney . he's an assumed front-runner. he owns a house in this state. he was the governor of the state next door. but his own opponents have been attacking him like democrats, especially for his career in business, buying and selling companies. there's at least one sound bite mitt romney would like to have back from this past week. if you buy the theory that tonight is basically the race for second place, that's where this really starts to get interesting. our team is here and in place, including a look tonight at what voters have been saying here today as they cast their votes. we want to start off with nbc's peter alexander . he is live from romney headquarters at the university of southern new hampshire here in manchester. peter, new england peter, good evening.

>>> brian, good evening. as you say, this is a race for second place. mitt romney would become the first ever nonrepublican candidate to win both iowa and new hampshire . battling through crowds of cameras --

>> governor huntsman --

>> reporter: the republican candidates made last-minute appeals across new hampshire today.

>> this is bizarre.

>> reporter: hoping for a decisive win here, front-runner mitt romney continued to face blistering attacks about what he's presented as an asset -- his business experience as former head of bain capital that romney said created jobs and stronger companies. but newt gingrich today questioned bain's practices of sometimes liquidating companies and laying off workers.

>> i am not saying anything that mitt romney has done was outside the law. it may have been bad judgment, it may have been an exploitation. it may be inappropriate. just because you have the right to do something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

>> reporter: and fiery barbs merged today in south carolina , the next state to vote.

>> they're vultures sitting out there on the tree limb, waiting for the company to get sick. and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass.

>> reporter: the bitterness began to take shape monday after romney said this about consumer companies that don't meet consumer expectations .

>> i like to be able to provide people who provide services to me. you know, if somebody doesn't give me the good service i need, i want to say i'm going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.

>> reporter: jon huntsman whop showed a late burst of momentum quickly tried to capitalize on romney 's remark.

>> governor romney enjoys firing people. i enjoy creating jobs.

>> reporter: rick perry 's website even featured this custom ring tone .

>> i like being able to fire people . i like being able to fire people .

>> reporter: today, andrea mitchell asked romney about his firing comment.

>> i was talking about insurance companies . we all like to get rid of our insurance companies . we don't want obama to tell us we can't.

>> reporter: meanwhile, the democrats have handed out fake pink slips across the state, where independent voters who account for 40% of the electorate here may decide this primary.

>> the deficit, spending is out of control. i'm looking for someone who really takes it by the horns.

>> reporter: and tonight, ron paul defended romney and criticized his republican challengers attacks on romney 's firing comments, calling them, quote, desperate and deplorable. tonight, he said those are the republicans who are arguing like democrats. brian?

>> all right, peter alexander , across town from here starting us off tonight. peter, thanks. as