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GOP rivals try to knock front-runner Romney off stride in weekend debates before NH primary
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) ' Mitt Romney's rivals attacked the Republican presidential front-runner from the opening moments of a campaign debate Saturday night, dismissing him as a mere business manager rather than a leader and a man whose investment company actually cost workers jobs.
Romney retorted that Bain Capital had created 100,000 jobs on balance, and that a businessman's experience was far better to fix the economy that a lifetime spent in Washington DC.
"I'm very proud of the fact that the two enterprises I led were successful," he said, referring to Bain and another firm.
The barbs flew from the opening moments of the debate, the first of two in a weekend doubleheader in the run-up to the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. Romney won the Iowa caucuses earlier in the week by a scant eight votes over former Sen. Rick Santorum and is far ahead in the polls in New Hampshire, making his rivals eager to slow his rise in the race for the nomination.
Santorum went first, dismissing Romney as a manager. "Being a president is not a CEO. You've got to lead and inspire," he said.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich followed a few moments later, referring to published accounts in the media that described how some workers were laid off after Bain invested in their companies and sought to turn them around.
He said Romney should be judged on the basis of whether "on balance, were people better off or worse off by this style of management."