Romney Under Fire in “Meet the Press” Republican Presidential Nomination Debate

And yet another debate. But this time former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is not getting off quite that easy:

Mitt Romney found himself under fire early in a Sunday GOP debate, with conservative candidates piling on Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum went on the attack at the outset of Sunday’s NBC News-Facebook debate, broadcast on “Meet the Press.” The two of them went after Romney from his right flank, assailing him as an inauthentic conservative.

“If his record was so great as governor of Massachusetts, why didn’t he run for reelection?” asked Santorum, the candidate who basically tied Romney in last Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. “If it was so great, why did you bail out?”

The offensive against Romney were an element largely absent from another GOP debate last night in Manchester. The rest of the Republican field is looking to draw distinctions with Romney in the remaining 48 hours before the New Hampshire primary, in which Romney is leading, according to polls.

“I’m very proud of my record and I think the one thing you can’t fool the people of New Hampshire about is the record of a governor next door,” Romney said in response to the pile-on, largely avoiding making direct attacks against his detractors.

At one point, though, when Santorum interrupted him, Romney snipped: “Rick, it’s still my time.”

Gingrich, who had vowed to draw more stark contrasts against Romney in New Hampshire after having been assailed by ads in Iowa run by a pro-Romney super PAC, voiced criticisms of Romney similar to the ones he’d voiced while barnstorming through the Granite State this week.

Perhaps I’m getting jaded but in my quick review of this debate my reaction was: I am so sick of hearing candidates mouth talking points that sound like talking points in a way they know they are talking points. Why not just say: “Go to my website and you can read what my handlers and I whipped up as an answer.” (I almost long to hear Joe Biden speak…)