Nightly News   |  January 11, 2012

Candidates pull no punches in South Carolina

The battle for the Republican presidential nomination moves from New Hampshire to South Carolina, as candidates keep trying to slow the frontrunner Mitt Romney. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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>>> you from new hampshire where we witnessed mitt romney becoming the first nonincumbent republican candidate to win the new hampshire primary after winning the iowa caucuses . he took the momentum in south carolina , where he is running into a bauz saw of attacks from some of his rivals. last night was about a big second-place finish by ron paul who says he is nipping at romney 's heels. ron mott is with us from spartanburg. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening to you. south carolina is not for the political faint of heart. the punches here can be hard and painful. all indications suggest we'll see a lot of blows delivered over the next ten days. round three, south carolina . where front-runner mitt romney landed today into an atmosphere saturated by bare-knuckle politics.

>> when mitt romney came to town --

>> reporter: his opponents are hitting him online in a 27-minute documentary and on the air with tv ads, including this attack from newt gingrich on abortion.

>> what happened after mitt romney changed his position from pro abortion to pro-life? he governed pro abortion.

>> reporter: while the group linked him to that 80 million excess, gordon gekko from " wall street ."

>> greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

>> reporter: fellow republicans were throwing punches about romney 's days running bain capital .

>> i think companies like bain capital could have helped these companies if they truly were venture capitalists , but they're not. they're vulture capitalists.

>> reporter: romney responded to the criticism this morning on the "today" show.

>> i think it's been vie, class warfare and something we expected to come from president obama , but we didn't expect that newt gingrich and rick perry would become the witnesses for his prosecution, if you will. i don't think it's helped them.

>> reporter: it hasn't helped perry and gingrich in the polls much. both were distance finishers in iowa and new hampshire . nor did it help win favor with conservative heavyweights like rush limbaugh .

>> i don't care what you think the attacks they mounted on romney are not defensible.

>> reporter: the former speaker disagreed, almost cringing at the notion.

>> i think the american people deserve to know things. i am prepared to have people be irritated on the right and on the left.

>> reporter: texas congressman ron paul , second to romney in new hampshire stayed out of the cross fire .

>> we thought we sent out a positive message out of iowa. i think we sent out a pretty positive message last night out of new hampshire . and i think south carolina is next on the list.

>> reporter: jon huntsman and rick santorum are stumping tonight in the palmetto state. both were critical on the attack on bain capital . nbc news and bain capital are partners and the weather channel .

>> ron paul supporters were fired up today.