GOFFSTOWN, N.H. - Republican Mitt Romney fended off a few attacks on his business record on Saturday and sailed through a high-stakes debate that his rivals used to jockey for position as his conservative alternative in the race for the White House.
Expected to be a punching bag, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts with a big lead in New Hampshire got a major break as his main rivals stopped short of going all-out negative against him and instead squabbled among themselves.
This leaves Romney in a strong position in New Hampshire, where polls show him winning the primary handily on Tuesday. That would put more pressure on his rivals to try to stop him at the next contest in South Carolina, where he also has a small lead.
Looking cool and confident with hands in his pockets, Romney repeatedly positioned himself above the fray. He stuck to lines from his campaign stump speech and trained fire on the man he wants to replace in November's election, Democratic President Barack Obama.