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Victorious Romney Rallies GOP for Bain Capitalism

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Those ads, and those themes, threaten Romney. But they also provide the "corporations are people" candidate with an opportunity to unite his corporatist party.

He addressed the threat in his New Hampshire "victory" speech.

The winner scored Gingrich and others who have begun to attack his robber-baron record with Bain Capitol.

"President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him," declared Romney. "This is such a mistake for our Party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success. In these difficult times, we cannot abandon the core values that define us as unique -- We are One Nation, Under God."

While the "greed-is-good" may not qualify in most American's minds as one of the country's "core values," the attack is a smart one for Romney.

Republicans don't have much taste for Romney. But they nurture a dramatic distaste for Obama.

If Romney can suggest that attacks on his record as a rapacious capitalist help Obama, that might do what he has not been able to do on his own: energize a Republican Party that has not to this point been inclined to settle on his candidacy.

Watch for Romney to ramp up this counterattack as he heads for South Carolina.

And watch for the right-wing echo chamber -- which is already suggesting that Gingrich has been drinking from the "Occupy Wall Street" fountain -- to amplify the message. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the Fox crowd does not want a debate about bad business practices and crony capitalism opening up in the Republican Party.

Still, there will be questions about whether Romney might actually be, er, um, well, a looter.

That's what creates a small -- OK, a very small -- opening for Huntsman, who declared Tuesday night: "Here we go to South Carolina!"

Paul is not going to be the Republican nominee, and neither is Gingrich -- who is already being dismissed as an Obama surrogate -- or the fast-fading Santorum, who said he "respected the process" by coming to campaign in New Hampshire. Unfortunately for Santorum, the process did not respect him.

So what of Huntsman?

The former Utah governor is a polished politician, with better skills and a better style than Romney. But he's not a radically different player. On some issues, he is more conservative than the front-runner -- for instance, his embrace of House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan's budget plan has been far warmer and more thorough-going than that of Romney or Gingrich.

What distinguishes Huntsman is that he is fresher and more appealing to moderates and independents than Romney.

But moderates and independents will not be the ultimate deciders of the Republican primaries to come.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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