Update from 6:54 a.m. EST with news on Sunday's Republican debate.CONCORD, N.H. ( TheStreet) -- Republican front-runner Mitt Romney sparred with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich Sunday in a televised debate ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Other candidates tried to stake out their own positions during the event, which came less than 12 hours after the six GOP rivals faced off in nearby Manchester, N.H. in another debate. Romney repeatedly turned the focus away from his rivals to the Democrat he hopes to battle in general elections in November: President Obama. Sunday morning's faceoff was the final Republican debate before primary voters go to the polls in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Romney only narrowly defeated former Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Penn.) in the Iowa caucuses this past week, but the former Massachusetts governor has a strong lead in the New Hampshire polls. That has left the other five candidates to jockey for second place in order to be the leading contender to Romney going into later state contests, including South Carolina's primary on Jan. 21. > > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll Gingrich argued heatedly against Romney's description of himself as a businessman, not a career politician. Romney had said that his "life's passion" has been his faith, family and country, and that he had entered politics because he thought he could make a civic contribution. But Gingrich shot back, "Could we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?" The former House speaker then said the former Massachusetts governor had run for Senate in 1994 and then lost and was running for president while he was governor. "You've been running consistently for years," Gingrich said. Romney responded by saying that "citizenship has always been on my mind." Later, the two tangled over attack ads produced by political allies. Gingrich has complained in the past that charges against him in ads by a super PAC operated by former Romney aides were false. But in Sunday's debate, Gingrich was asked whether he was being consistent when an organization created by his supporters was preparing to criticize Bain Capital's actions when Romney was at the helm of the investment firm.
"I'm consistent because I think you ought to have fact-based campaigns," Gingrich said, adding that established media such as The New York Times had reported on Bain's behavior where it laid off workers at companies it acquired. Gingrich then pressed Romney to say whether the attacks by the super PAC were true. Romney responded that he hadn't seen them and that it was against the law for him to direct them. He said if there was anything inaccurate in the ads, he hoped it would be taken out. But shortly afterward, he listed the accusations in the ads, and said that most of them were true. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman attacked Romney for a comment the front-runner made in Saturday evening's debate -- that as Obama's ambassador to China, Huntsman had been working for the Obama administration when other Republicans were opposing its policies. Huntsman acknowledged that he had worked under a Democratic president but said he said he was serving the country when he did. "I just want to remind the people here in New Hampshire and throughout the United States, he criticized me while he was out raising money for serving my country in China, yes, under a Democrat, like my two sons are doing in the United States Navy," Huntsman said. "They're not asking what political affiliation the president is." Romney responded by saying that service to the country comes first, but added that it would be good to have Republican candidate in the general election who hadn't praised the president's leadership. (Huntsman had written a letter to the president describing him as a "remarkable leader.") During Sunday's debate, candidates were asked who should bear the sacrifices in a time of austerity. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the people who would feel some pain would be bureaucrats in the federal departments of commerce, energy and education. In the earlier debate on Saturday, rivals launched some attacks at Romney, but they also spent time criticizing one another. Early on in Saturday's debate, Romney came under fire for his business background.
Santorum described him as a mere manager, the Associated Press reported. "Being a president is not a CEO. You've got to lead and inspire," he was quoted saying. In one heated exchange Saturday, Rep. Ron Paul (R., Texas) said he stood by his description of Gingrich as a "chicken hawk" because he had never served in the military, The Wall Street Journal reported. Paul was quoted saying that people who took "three or four or five deferments" had "no right to send our kids off to war." Gingrich said Gingrich had slurred him and said he took no deferments during the Vietnam War because at the time he was a married man with a child, the Journal reported. But Paul was quoted saying, "When I was drafted, I was married and had two kids, and I went."