Republican rivals target Romney as New Hampshire votes

Voters in the tiny New Hampshire village famed for casting the first ballots in the nation's first presidential primary have found themselves in a tie between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

Voters in the tiny New Hampshire village famed for casting the first ballots in the nation's first presidential primary have found themselves in a tie between Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

Nine votes were cast in New Hampshire’s Dixville Notch just after midnight.

Mr Romney and Mr Huntsman received two votes each. Coming in second with one vote apiece were Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

For the Democrats, President Barack Obama received three votes.

The nine residents who cast their ballots include three registered Republicans and two registered Democrats. Four other voters have not declared a party.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s Republican rivals have accused him of exaggerating his successes and coldly laying off thousands of workers while heading a profitable venture capital firm.

The heightened focus on the firm Bain Capital threatens to slow Mr Romney’s campaign because it goes to the heart of his number one appeal to voters: the claim that he knows far more than President Barack Obama about creating jobs.

Mr Romney’s takeover-and-restructuring firm “apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars”, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on NBC’s Today show.

A group friendly to Mr Gingrich is preparing to air TV ads of laid-off workers denouncing Mr Romney, who left Bain Capital in 1999 to head the organising committee for the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. He later served one term as Massachusetts governor.

Texas Governor Rick Perry joined in the attack on Mr Romney’s record at Bain while campaigning in South Carolina, which holds the first southern state primary.

He cited South Carolina companies that Bain bought and downsized, and he practically dared Mr Romney to ask for voters’ support there in the name of easing economic pain. “He caused it,” Mr Perry said.

Mr Romney points to thousands of jobs created at companies that Bain bought, invested in or restructured. But he struck a discordant note yesterday, just as attention to the Bain jobs history was spiking.

Speaking of health insurance options before a New Hampshire audience, Mr Romney said: “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”

He remained favoured to win the New Hampshire primary. But his rivals might improve their hopes of halting his momentum in South Carolina’s January 21 primary if they can persuade voters that his jobs legacy is not what he claims.

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