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Mudslinging and name-calling: The attacks against each GOP hopeful Add to ...

The race to pick a Republican who will take on President Barack Obama in November 2012 was always going to have a negative streak as the candidates try to bump front-runner Mitt Romney from the top spot – and as Mr. Romney’s supporters try to protect his lead.

Mr. Romney won the Iowa caucus vote on January 3rd by a mere eight votes. In New Hampshire on Tuesday, he won with a more decisive 39 percent of the votes.

The televised debates are a natural place for candidates to deliver their well-honed line of attack against their rivals.

But nothing does it like a TV attack ad financed and produced by the various ‘super political action committees,’ or super PACs, that support various candidates.

Super PACs have emerged as important players in the race to lead the GOP because they allow groups to raise unlimited money and they face few restrictions compared to a candidate’s own political action committee, or PAC.

According to ad buying data shown to the Associated Press, the most money spent on campaign and super PAC ads was in Iowa: $13-million ahead of the caucuses. In New Hampshire: over $5-million.

As candidates head to the next primary in South Carolina on January 21st, where candidates are expecting to make a decisive anti-Romney stand, here are the various lines of attack each candidate can expect:

Line of attack on Mitt Romney

The former Massachusetts governor who made a lot of money leading the investment firm Bain Capital and received kudos for his management of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City faced what one news organization described as the ”weekend from hell.” Back-to-back televised debates just days ahead of the New Hampshire primary vote meant a gang-up on the front-runner was inevitable.

But Mr. Romney escaped relatively unscathed on Saturday night, and Sunday morning’s debate produced a few tangles - with Newt Gingrich blasting his “pious baloney” line across Mr. Romney’s bow.

Mr. Romney has been called a ”flip-flopper”, a ”chameleon”, and a ”Massachusetts moderate” whose economic policy is “timid” and “virtually identical to Obama’s failed policy.” But the line of attack on Mr. Romney has intensified: as our Washington correspondent reports, with a Newt Gingrich super PAC purchasing a short 28-minute film that attacks Mr. Romney’s track record in business and his claim to have created over 100,000 jobs. An ad that is described as a trailer to the film will be aired in South Carolina where the GOP race heads next.

The ad leaves little doubt about the line of attack: Mr. Romney’s business leadership was, in fact, the behaviour of a “corporate raider” whose actions resulted in the loss of jobs and suffering. It was, the ad alleges, a display of ruthlessness worse than anything on Wall Street.

Having a GOP presidential hopeful with considerable business experience will be attractive to voters looking for a president who can fix the ailing U.S. economy.

However, expect GOP candidates to step up their attack on Mr. Romney’s business record. The last-minute barrage of attacks on Mr. Romney ahead of New Hampshire did not change the outcome of the New Hampshire primary, but that does not mean it will stop candidates from pursuing the same line of attack in South Carolina. Mr. Gingrich has already questioned whether “on balance, were people better off or worse off by this [Mr. Romney’s]style of management.” That's Mr. Gingrich putting it very nicely.

Line of attack on Newt Gingrich

Remember the ad that compared Mitt Romney’s economic plan to President Obama’s, claiming that the two are virtually identical?

That line of attack against the “Massachusetts moderate” was led by Newt Gingrich following Mr. Gingrich’s Iowa caucus loss.

A pro-Romney super PAC hit back with its own ad, arguing that, “On issue after issue Newt Gingrich and Obama have so much in common – the right choice is to choose neither.”

It’s pretty tit-for-tat stuff and unlikely to cause the kind of damage the same pro-Romney super PAC inflicted on Mr. Gingrich in December.

Back then, Mr. Gingrich was riding high – even topping – the polls for several weeks.

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