Romney swipes at Republican front-runner Giuli

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WASHINGTON, Oct 7 (Reuters) Scrambling to make up ground on his top rival, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took aim at front-runner Rudy Giuliani on Friday, accusing him of big-spending policies as New York's mayor.

''Big City, Big Spender,'' read a news release from the Romney campaign that drew attention to Giuliani's fight to keep in place a commuter tax when he was New York's mayor.

The Romney campaign also announced it would broadcast a radio advertisement in the early voting state of New Hampshire pointing out that Romney was the only Republican candidate who pledged to oppose any attempt to raise taxes on Americans.

The Giuliani camp, enjoying a lead in the polls for the Republican presidential nomination, fired back at Romney, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of a ''taxachusetts hypocrisy.'' ''Mitt Romney has no choice but to hide behind false attacks.

One look at his record as governor shows he increased government spending, proposed millions of dollars in tax increases, and even raised taxes on New Hampshire commuters repeatedly,'' said Giuliani communications director Katie Levinson.

Romney's strategy is to try to instill doubt about Giuliani's Republican credentials among conservatives already worried about Giuliani's stance in favor of abortion rights.

For a party demoralized by the prospect of losing the White House to the Democrats, there have been few fireworks between the Republican candidates. But the latest scrap could set the stage for a head-to-head clash at a Republican debate next Tuesday in Michigan.

Romney leads the Republican field in Iowa, whose caucuses in January will be the first voting event on the long road to the November 2008 election. But Giuliani has closed a gap with Romney in New Hampshire and leads all Republican candidates in national polls.

TAXES AND SPENDING Republicans alarmed at the failure of Washington politicians to rein in growing government spending are searching for a fiscally conservative presidential candidate who can slow down the spending.

Giuliani also drew fire from Democrat Hillary Clinton. The New York senator's campaign began running an ad in Iowa and New Hampshire that seemed intended to steal some of Giuliani's thunder as the city's mayor during the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The ad, in which Clinton appears wearing a dust mask on a visit to the site of the attacks, says, ''She stood by Ground Zero workers who sacrificed their health care after so many sacrificed their lives.'' Giuliani was criticized in August for saying he spent as much time if not more than rescue workers at the site of New York's destroyed World Trade Center.

Clinton was assailed by Democratic rival John Edwards, who charged that her campaign strategist Mark Penn's public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, represented Blackwater USA, the security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians.

In Iowa, Edwards likened Penn to President George W Bush's former political adviser, Karl Rove, and suggested a Clinton presidency would not bring the sort of change needed in Washington.

''I think it is important for Iowa caucus goers to understand the choices they have in this election. And it is the reason I continue to say we don't want to replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats.'' Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said Penn did no work on the Blackwater account, Burson-Marsteller has cut its ties with the firm, ''and that was the right thing to do.'' REUTERS TB AS0435

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