Thursday, January 24, 2008

Romney Most Disliked Republican

"Romney Leads in Ill Will Among Rivals

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 24) — At the end of the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire this month, when the Democrats joined the candidates on stage, Mitt Romney found himself momentarily alone as his counterparts mingled, looking around a bit stiffly for a companion.

Mitt Romney talks to supporters Tuesday in Coral Springs, Fla. While Romney is surrounded by friendly faces at his campaign events, it's a different story when he's with his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. They seem to have a deeply felt scorn for him.

The moment was emblematic of a broader reality that has helped shape the Republican contest and could take center stage again on Thursday at a debate in Florida. Within the small circle of contenders, Mr. Romney has become the most disliked.

With so much attention recently on the sniping between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic side, the almost visceral scorn directed at Mr. Romney by his rivals has been overshadowed.“Never get into a wrestling match with a pig,” Senator John McCain said in New Hampshire this month after reporters asked him about Mr. Romney. “You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”Mike Huckabee’s pugilistic campaign chairman, Ed Rollins, appeared to stop just short of threatening

Mr. Romney with physical violence at one point.“What I have to do is make sure that my anger with a guy like Romney, whose teeth I want to knock out, doesn’t get in the way of my thought process,” Mr. Rollins said.Campaign insiders and outside strategists point to several factors driving the ill will, most notably, Mr. Romney’s attacks on opponents in television commercials, the perception of him as an ideological panderer and resentment about his seemingly unlimited resources as others have struggled to raise cash.Mr. Romney’s campaign contends that the hostility is driven by the fact that he has aggressively sought to win the early primaries, setting himself up as the chief antagonist, first, to Mr. Huckabee in Iowa and then to Mr. McCain in New Hampshire.

Mr. Romney continues to be a mountain in the paths of both men, as well as Rudolph W. Giuliani, to the nomination."

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