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Supporters duel while candidates debate in Concord

CONCORD, N.H. — Outside this morning’s Republican debate, supporters of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman shouted, “Flip-flop Mitt!”

“Last-place Jon!” retorted supporters of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

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Across the street, the United Auto Workers chimed in, “Hey hey, ho ho, Romney greed has got to go!”

As Romney tops all of the New Hampshire polls, with just two days to go before Tuesday’s primary, his rivals and their supporters have started to target him on the campaign trail and in debates. The six Republican presidential candidates, with nothing more than a night’s sleep behind them, are debating again this morning just hours after a debate last night.

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry are debating for 90 minutes at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord during a forum arranged by NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Facebook. The event is being broadcast in Boston on WHDH-TV, Channel 7.

Even at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, the attacks on Romney were spirited on the street outside the NBC News/”Meet the Press”/Facebook debate at the Capitol Center for the Arts.

Around 100 members of the United Auto Workers from New York and New England traveled to New Hampshire to weigh in on the primary, and to support the Manchester Newspaper Guild in a contract dispute with the Union Leader newspaper.

Scott Tyrell, a union vice president from Long Island, NY said he came “to try to derail Mitt Romney’s campaign.” “Romney’s a job killer, not a job creator,” Tyrell said, referring to Romney’s work at Bain Capital. In last night’s debate, Romney’s rivals criticized his business record, pointing to the workers who were laid off as a result of Bain’s investments.

George Albro, a UAW attorney, said he came to protest Romney’s “greed and his positions supporting the 1 percent,” particularly Romney’s tax policy. “The country needs someone for the 99 percent. The president is trying his best to do that, and he’s impeded by people like Romney who’s in the 1 percent,” Albro said.

Standing with a crowd of Huntsman supporters, Rex Houdyshel, a systems administrator from Nashua, said Romney ran as a liberal in his 1994 Senate race, and is now running as a conservative in the presidential race. “I don’t trust him,” he said.

Romney supporters said they were not swayed by the protesters.

“Everybody has a right to their opinion. There’s room for the misguided,” said Bill Gordon, a retiree from Loudon who dressed his dog, Miles, in a Romney t-shirt. Gordon said he believes Romney is a middle-of-the-road Republican, who can be a strong leader and motivator.

Kathy Rayno, a nurse from Salisbury who was waving a Romney sign, said she felt a little uncomfortable with the protesters standing in front of her. But, she said, they won’t make a difference in her support for Romney, whom she likes because of his economic policy, world view, and values.

“I do my homework,” she said.

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.

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