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New Hampshire paper: Romney 'must be stopped'

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  • The Concord Monitor editorial calls former Gov. Mitt Romney "a phony"
  • It slams Romney for flip-flopping
  • It says Romney once supported stem-cell research and now opposes it
  • It claims Romney is dodging the issue of torture
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(CNN) -- In unusually stark language, the newspaper in New Hampshire's capital calls former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney "a phony" and tells its readers Sunday that he "most surely must be stopped" in next month's first-in-the-nation primary.

The Concord Monitor published an editorial slamming the GOP presidential candidate for flip-flopping on issues. It also criticized him for his central-casting appearance.

With "an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit" along with "a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience" Romney espouses "some old GOP bromides -- spending cuts and lower taxes -- plus some new positions for 2008: anti-immigrant rhetoric and a focus on faith," the editorial says.

The Concord Monitor editorial page is considered to be liberal.

But Romney's record makes him "a disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped," the editorial added.

It compared Romney's stances as governor of Massachusetts with those taken as a presidential candidate and found glaring differences. Video Watch Romney shake hands and chat with voters in New Hampshire »

"If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats," it said. Read the editorial

"If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core."

The editorial then cited Romney's advocacy of gay rights in 1994, when he was running against Sen. Edward Kennedy for the U.S. Senate, and compared that with his current stance.

"These days, he makes a point of his opposition to gay marriage and adoption," it said.

It said Romney once sought to make contraceptive drugs more available, then vetoed a bill that would have allowed them to be sold over-the-counter.

Romney told voters he favored abortion rights in 1994, the editorial said, "and he cited the tragedy of a relative's botched illegal abortion as the reason to keep abortions safe and legal."

Today, it said, he describes himself as "pro-life."

Though Romney once supported embryonic stem-cell research, "these days, he largely opposes it," according to the editorial.

When he was running for governor, Romney rejected an anti-tax pledge "as a gimmick," the editors said. "In this race, he was the first to sign."

The editors acknowledged that people can change, but they said Romney "has yet to explain this particular set of turnarounds in a way that convinces voters they are based on anything other than his own ambition."

The editorial then took Romney to task about torture, saying "he dodges the issue ... unable to say, simply, that waterboarding is torture and America won't do it."

And it called "chilling" Romney's statement that he would like to double the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, which has held terrorist suspects for years without charges.

"When New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, we talk about our ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney," the editorial said. "If a candidate is a phony, we assure ourselves and the rest of the world, we'll know it.

"Mitt Romney is such a candidate. New Hampshire Republicans and independents must vote no."

Asked to respond, a campaign spokesman for Romney for President did not specifically address any of the issues raised by the board.

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Instead, Kevin Madden said, "The Monitor's editorial board is regarded as a liberal one on many issues, so it is not surprising that they would criticize Gov. Romney for his conservative views and platform.

"Gov. Romney has taken firm positions that are at odds with the board's support for drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, their position against school choice and their advocacy for taking 'Under God' out of the Pledge of Allegiance. The governor happens to disagree with them on all those issues." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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