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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Newt Gingrich accused Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney of "pious baloney" Sunday for saying he's not a career politician, demanding in campaign debate that Romney "just level with the American people."
Romney denied the accusation briskly. "Politics is not my career," he said. "My life's passion has been my family, my faith, my country."
The exchange — and another one in which Rick Santorum swapped jibes with Romney — marked in the opening moments of the second half of a weekend debate doubleheader in the run-up to next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.
Romney, who won the Iowa caucuses last Tuesday by eight votes over Santorum, leads in the polls in New Hampshire, where his rivals have all but conceded he will win.
South Carolina comes next, on Jan. 21, the first Southern state to hold a primary, and Romney pointedly noted that he has been endorsed by that state's governor, Nikki Haley.