MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Mitt Romney and John McCain sparred Sunday over their tax and spending records and who was a better agent for change, in the second Republican debate of the final weekend before the New Hampshire primary.
McCain had the support of 34 percent of likely voters, up from 27 percent in mid-December. Romney was at 30 percent, down from 34 percent, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — the Iowa caucus winner — was third at 13 percent. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had 8 percent, while former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson was in the low single digits.
The stakes this week are especially high for both McCain and Romney.
Romney, who pinned his presidential bid on using momentum from big wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, needs a victory to prove his candidacy isn’t crippled after an Iowa drubbing. McCain has put all his focus on a New Hampshire victory that would repeat his success here eight years ago.
Earlier Sunday, McCain declared, “I will win,” while Romney hedged.
“I’m planning on winning in New Hampshire,” the former governor said, but he added, “It may not happen.”
Projecting confidence, McCain proclaimed in a TV interview: “I will win” the primary. Underscoring how much is at stake in New Hampshire, he added that victory is “vital” to his candidacy.
Later on his campaign bus, McCain qualified his prediction of a New Hampshire victory. “I believe I will win, but a lot of things can happen between now and Tuesday when the polls close,” McCain said, adding that many New Hampshire Republicans still haven’t decided whom to support.
And Ron Paul? Well, he’s a little pissed. From the Houston Chronicle:
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Shut out of a GOP presidential candidate forum sponsored by Fox News, Ron Paul staged his own televised town hall meeting today in which he fielded questions from undecided voters two days before the key primary election here.
The decision by Fox to limit participation in the forum infuriated Paul supporters and even drew the ire of the New Hampshire Republican Party, which withdrew its sponsorship of the event.
Fox had invited Republican candidates Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Fred Thompson to the forum, but excluded Paul as well as California congressman Duncan Hunter.
Paul protested, arguing that he raised $20 million in the last quarter of 2007, almost the same amount as Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, a Research 2000 poll published in the Concord Monitor released Sunday showed Paul garnering 7 percent of the vote, besting Thompson and only 1 point behind Giuliani in the state.
Put up your dukes, Faux News!!