New Hampshire Primary: Mitt Romney the Clear Front-Runner, Jon Huntsman Vies for No. 2 Spot


Huntsman played to Republican concerns about such quotes being dissected by Democrats if Romney is elected the GOP presidential candidate.

"Listen, if you're going to make statements like that, you become pretty much unelectable," Huntsman told reporters today. "Because if it isn't a Republican, it's going to be the Chicago campaign machine with a billion dollars at their sails that's going to take after comments like that."

Perry, who skipped New Hampshire after the debates this weekend and is campaigning in South Carolina, today likened companies such as Bain Capital -- without saying its name -- to "vultures" who sit on a tree limb, swoop down to eat the carcasses and leave the skeleton behind.

"Allowing these companies to come in and loot the, loot people's jobs, loot their pensions, loot their ability to take care of their families and I will suggest they're just vultures," Perry said at a town hall in Fort Mill, S.C. "They're vultures that sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that and they leave the skeleton."

Perry's son Griffin, who often serves as a surrogate for his father on the road and has not been shy about voicing his opinions about other presidential candidates, jumped into the fray today with a tweet criticizing Romney.

"Mitt Romney knows how to lead," he wrote. "Lead people straight out the door with a pink slip."

But Romney found some sympathy among others, namely Paul who defended his rival's statement in an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

"I think they're wrong," Paul said of Romney's critics. "I think they're totally misunderstanding the way the market works. They are either just demagoguing or they don't have the vaguest idea how the market works."

Santorum told ABC News' Jake Tapper that Romney's comment sends the wrong message but he also cut his rival some slack.

"I am not too sure that is a very good message to a lot of folks out there," he said today. "It was certainly an inarticulate way of phrasing what he wanted to phrase, but it's a little bit of a gotcha."

Nevertheless, Romney's comment could pick up steam as candidates head to South Carolina on Wednesday, a state where the unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent stands above the national average.

"The Republican party in South Carolina is not based in big business," said Republican strategist and ABC News consultant Matthew Dowd. "It's working class. Blue collar. It's much more populist."

ABC News' Gary Langer, Elizabeth Hartfield, Emily Friedman, Arlette Saenz and Shushannah Walshe contributed to this report.

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