From The Trail: Romney v. Rudy

Occasionally, I'm going to run raw dispatches from our NBC/NJ campaign reporters on the campaign trail to illustrate the ebb and flow of daily politics.

Today, Erin McPike on what Mitt Romney said about Rudy Giuliani, and Matthew Berger, on how a Giuliani surrogate responded.

Mitt Romney was asked at a forum at Saint Anselm College's Institute of Politics this morning to contrast his stance on taxes with Rudy Giuliani, and he offered two distinctions: His support for the line-item veto and his pledge for no new taxes.

On the line-item veto, which he launched into first, he blasted Giuliani for arguing against its constitutionality at the Supreme Court during the Clinton administration.

On taxes, he broadened his argument to say that he was the first of all the presidential contenders on both sides of the aisle to sign a pledge against new taxes.

Romney was pressed by reporters after the event to challenge Giuliani's electability argument, which was given a boost today with the release of NBC/WSJ's poll. While he said he didn't want to play pundit, he was forced to explain how he, too, might be able to beat Hillary Clinton. He once again pointed to Michigan as an opportunity for Republicans to gain ground and largely dismissed the idea that New York could be a battleground state.

Gaining his stride against Giuliani, he reiterated that he is the stronger of the two on tax issues and went further in depth on Giuliani's battle with former New York Gov. George Pataki to keep the commuter tax in New York City. Romney recently has been focusing his attacks on Clinton, and today's growing storm against Giuliani marked a shift.

Former Massachusetts Gov. and Giuliani supporter Paul Cellucci responded to Romney's criticism in a conference call Thursday.

"It's a pretty weak argument from a governor who in four years really had no tax cuts for the people of Massachusetts," said Cellucci, calling Romney's attacks a sign of "desperation" as polls tighten in New Hampshire.

Cellucci said Giuliani supported the line-item veto, but believed it needed to be achieved through a constitutional amendment. And he accused Romney of raising taxes for non-Massachusetts residents who worked in the state.

"The record is clear," he said. "Rudy Giuliani cut taxes, brought broad base tax relief for the people of New York."