New Hampshire Primary Underway; Referendum on Romney

Posted January 10th, 2012 at 11:15 am (UTC-5)
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Republican presidential candidates are increasing the pressure on front-runner and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as voters across New Hampshire head to the polls.

Most voters started heading to gymnasiums, town halls and even churches early Tuesday , casting their ballots in the first-in-the-nation primary.

Speaking Tuesday outside a polling station in the city of Manchester, presidential candidate and former congressman Newt Gingrich said voters will have to think twice about putting their support behind Romney if he continues to “misstate” his positions.

Gingrich was referring to comments Romney made during a speech on health care, when Romney said, “I like being able to fire people.”

Romney's statement had been directed at health insurance companies who fail to provide good service. But his rivals quickly jumped on the comment.

Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, said Monday he was different than Romney because, “Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.”

Other Republicans candidates have also been hammering Romney on his previous career running a private investment firm . Romney's rival charge the firm laid off hundreds of employees in an effort to boost already large profits.

Voting in got underway Tuesday just after midnight local time in Dixville Notch, near the Canadian border. Romney – who has held a large lead in public opinion polls – won two of the town's nine possible votes, tying him with Huntsman.

Several pundits say it is very likely Romney will win the New Hampshire Republican primary. But they say his national candidacy could suffer if he does not handily defeat the other Republican candidates.

Ex-U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, who lost to Romney by only eight votes last week in the Iowa caucuses, hopes to also come in second in New Hampshire. But the latest polls suggest second place may go to Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Texas Governor Rick Perry is also hoping for a strong showing.

Besides Huntsman, the other major contenders for the Republican nomination include and ex-congressman Newt Gingrich.

All the candidates have been seeking to highlight their conservative credentials against the more liberal President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

Mr. Obama faces no major challengers in Tuesday's primary vote.