After narrowly winning the first contest in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney dismissed attacks from his challengers, saying bluntly: "Let the attacks come."
Romney emerged from Tuesday night's Iowa caucuses as the winner with an eight-vote margin over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who immediately appealed to his supporters in a letter calling Romney a "bland, boring, career politician."
In an interview on CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday, Romney expressed pride in his record and indicated he would take on his critics in the back-to-back debates scheduled to take place this weekend before Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire.
"I've got broad shoulders," Romney said in Des Moines, Iowa. "I know that when you get in a campaign, there's a big target on you. It's, obviously it's a small target compared to what's going to come from the Democratic National Committee and Barack Obama. They've already begun attacking me. I'm not too worried about that. Let the attacks come.
"The American people are going to focus on whether or not I've got the skills to lead the country and to create jobs again, and I'm proud of the record that I have, and I'm happy to defend my record and to just contrast it with the other people that are coming after me, particularly President Obama."
Romney also responded to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who on "The Early Show" a day before called Romney a liar and made several other critical statements about him. In Wednesday's editions of New Hampshire's largest newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader, Gingrich took out a full-page advertisement calling Romney a "Timid Massachusetts Moderate" and himself a "Bold, Reagan Conservative."
"He's got his facts wrong," Romney said, "and I'm sure we'll get a chance during the debates to talk about those things, but, you know, I understand people are going to rattle off a list of supposed sins, and then you get a chance to go through them one by one. I think the people of New Hampshire in particular know pretty darn well what I faced when I was governor of Massachusetts."
With polls putting Romney ahead by as many as 30 points in New Hampshire, Romney said he looked forward to South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary and doubted that his fellow Republicans had the staying power to keep going through the primary calendar.
"I've got the capacity I think to take this campaign all the way to Tampa," Romney said, referring to the Republican presidential convention in Florida, "and that's something which I think the other folks in this race are going to find a little more difficult to do."