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Romney’s last stand?
Mitt Romney went on the offensive against his rivals in the last debate before the New Hampshire primary, said Robert Novak in the Chicago Sun-Times, but he didn't score enough points to avoid a devastating loss in his second straight contest. Don't be so
W
hat happened
Mitt Romney criticized rival John McCain for opposing President Bush’s tax cuts in the last debate before the New Hampshire primary. Romney, a former governor in nearby Massachusetts, lost an early lead in New Hampshire polls and has aired ads attacking rival Republican presidential candidates in a push to avoid following up his second-place finish to Mike Huckabee in Iowa with a second loss in a row. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

What the commentators said
Romney can “hardly afford” another setback, said Robert Novak in the Chicago Sun-Times. He needed to gain ground in Saturday’s debate to avoid looking like “a clear loser” in New Hampshire, but he failed. With so many rivals on the stage, he never managed to get any mileage out of his disagreement with McCain over the tax cuts, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani pitched in “against Romney on immigration.”

McCain’s the one leading in New Hampshire polls, said John Dickerson in Slate, but the other candidates ganged up on Romney in the debate as if they were collectively determined to knock him out of the race. One after the other, they blasted him—for “his many position changes,” among other things. Judging by the debate, “Romney's rivals don't just disagree with him. They don't like him. At all.”

Romney knew “he’d be under constant attack” in the debate, said Rich Lowry in National Review Online’s The Corner blog, and he responded with “his best performance yet, in very high pressure circumstances.” He still has to deal with the “flip-flop” charges some day, but “his answers on taxes, job creation, and immigration were top notch.” If he wins on Tuesday, his debate performance “will be a big reason why.”

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