Candidates Turn Up the Heat on Romney in SC

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is feeling the heat before the South Carolina primary.

After a big win in New Hampshire, the Republican front-runner is fighting off attacks portraying him as an elitist as he tries to win over evangelical voters concerned about his Mormon faith.

Vulture Capitalist?

Romney's campaign rolled into South Carolina with a lot of momentum. He wasted no time in speaking out against President Obama.

"I think you have to say this has been a failed presidency," he said.

Romney's Republican competitors also wasted no time in bringing up controversial issues surrounding the GOP front-runner.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry had harsh words for the management firm which Romney used to lead.

"Companies like Bain Capital could have come and helped these companies if they truly were venture capitalists, but they're not. They're vulture capitalists," Perry said.

Perry is also speaking boldly about his connection with conservative, evangelical voters in the state, knowing that many are hesitant or against voting for a Mormon candidate.

"I am a Christian and I'm proud of that," he said.

The other candidates, including Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., are also working hard to slow down Romney.

"Romney signed government-mandated health care with taxpayer-funded abortions," one of the television commercials for Gingrich claimed.

A super political action committee supporting Gingrich is spending nearly $3.5 million on a television advertising campaign and a documentary painting Romney as a rich, elitist who buys up companies and lays off workers.

Romney Strikes Back

Romney said Gingrich is playing into President Obama's hands.

"We've understood for a long time that the Obama people would attack free enterprise. I was a little surprised to see Newt Gingrich as the first witness for the prosecution," he said.

Gingrich said Romney needs to address directly the eyebrow-raising issues.

"If they think they can get through the general election with Obama and Axelrod and not have to be capable of answering the tough questions, that's a formula for guaranteed defeat this fall," Gingrich noted.

The South Carolina primary is scheduled for Jan. 21, but the GOP hopefuls also have their eyes on Florida at the end of the month.

At least 424,000 Republican absentee ballots have been mailed in the Sunshine State, and some 84,000 have already been returned.

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.