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Mitt Romney in crosshairs of GOP candidates going into N.H. debate

Mitt Romney's unflappable debate style is likely to be tested Tuesday night. This is a make or break debate for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

By Associated Press / October 11, 2011

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a town hall meeting at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H. in September.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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Concord, N.H.

As Mitt Romney maintains his lead in the national polls, Republican presidential contenders are taking aim at the front-runner.

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Tuesday night's debate in New Hampshire is a make or break event for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's seen his poll numbers drop. At the same time Herman Cain's polling numbers have been rising. Still, it's the former Massachusetts governor who is likely to get most of the critical attention tonight. Many GOP candidates are now fielding ads targeting Romney

"Even the richest man can't buy back his past," Texas Gov. Rick Perry's campaign said in a web video that describes Romney as the inspiration for President Barack Obama's national health care overhaul that conservatives detest and questions Romney's assertion that he is a "conservative businessman."

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota on Monday urged conservative voters not to support for a candidate who isn't one of them. "It's not good enough to settle for anyone but Barack Obama," she said while campaigning in New Hampshire.

Even lower-profile rivals are trying to knock Romney off his game.

"Simply advocating more ships, more troops and more weapons is not a viable path forward," former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Monday in a foreign policy speech that was a direct rebuttal to Romney's a week earlier.

Romney, a second-time presidential contender, has a comfortable lead in New Hampshire polling after virtually camping out in the state since his 2008 loss and building a strong statewide campaign network. To stop him, his opponents have readied criticism on health care policy, cultural issues and environmental positions.

Tuesday's debate was designed to be on the economy — voters' top concern in a nation that recorded 9.1 percent unemployment last month — but there was scant chance Romney would be able to dodge questions about his record.

Perhaps mindful of that, Romney referenced Perry's web video at a campaign event Monday.

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