Nightly News   |  January 21, 2012

Gingrich’s momentum too much for Romney

Mitt Romney challenged Newt Gingrich on a number of issues in South Carolina, but it was Gingrich who won over primary voters in the end. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>> few days ago showed mitt romney with a wide lead in south carolina , but the romney campaign sensing a change in the winds has been trying to tamp down expectations as it ratchets up its attacks on newt gingrich . peter alexander has that end of the story. good evening to you.

>> reporter: lester, good morning to you. and roomy took the afternoon off, in fact, to relax and he took his family to the movies today. regardless of what happens here this evening, governor romney 's advisers say he's in this for the long haul. for the romney campaign, proudly meticulous about every detail, that visit to tommy's country hamhouse featured an oversight that summed up a week's worth of stumbles.

>> we came here.

>> reporter: the crowd couldn't hear the candidate because his campaign didn't bring its own microphone. all week romney who is largely focused on attacking president obama --

>> repeal obamacare --

>> reporter: has struggled to fend off jabs from his rivals. newt gingrich and santorum and sidetracked about his personal wealth and wavering answers about whether he'd release his tax returns.

>> maybe. i'll take a look at what the -- what our documents are.

>> reporter: saturday morning romney tried to slow gingrich's momentum, and talking about the contract he signed with freddie mac .

>> this is a big issue, got the washington insiders, talking about freddie mac . let's see what the report was to freddie mac . what advice he gave them.

>> reporter: the romney campaign levelled this sarcastic attack, wishing again dprigingrich a happy anniversary. part of the increasing nasty campaign that has some voters turned off.

>> even got carolina to answer some. just hanging up. we're not listening to the messages.

>> reporter: still as romney looks to lower expectations here, his advisers are already touting their head start in florida.

>> we have a long way to go. come join us in florida. then in nevada and michigan and colorado.

>> reporter: but first, romney appears to have a few chores. today, his son tweeted this photo. showing the former governor doing laundry. and the next time we expect to see all four of the republican presidential candidates together, lester, is monday night in tampa. that of course is nbc news's presidential debate .

>> peter alexander in columbia, thank you.