Friday, May 11, 2007

NY SUN: Romney Surges in Polls

Romney Surges in Polls

Staff Reporter of the Sun
May 11, 2007

Eric Rowley / Getty

Mitt Romney meets his supporters after a town hall meeting in Iowa on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — Mayor Giuliani's political problems are mounting, as a lesser-known Republican rival, Mitt Romney, has surged in recent polls and a drug company with ties to his consulting firm has pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the potent painkiller OxyContin.

The former mayor has been ahead of Mr. Romney and Senator McCain of Arizona for months, but polls in the last two weeks have the former Massachusetts governor gaining or leading in New Hampshire, the site of the first primary, and in Michigan. Though Mr. Romney remains far behind Mr. Giuliani in national surveys, the bump in the Granite State is a sign his campaign may be catching on with Republican primary voters.

Mr. Romney, who served one term in the Massachusetts statehouse, has had to work much harder than Messrs. Giuliani or McCain to introduce himself to voters. He has received a flurry of publicity since what was widely considered a strong performance in the first Republican presidential debate last week. He has garnered headlines over a spat about his Mormon faith with the Reverend Al Sharpton, and he is set to be featured this weekend on the cover of Time magazine and on "60 Minutes."

For Mr. Giuliani, it has been a week of missteps and negative stories, the latest coming yesterday as the drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma and its top executives pleaded guilty to a felony charge of misbranding OxyContin, the prescription pain relief medication that federal prosecutors said has resulted in "scores" of deaths from abuse. Mr. Giuliani's private firm, Giuliani Partners, is a consultant for Purdue Pharma and has tried to help the company weather the OxyContin controversy for the past five years.

Under a settlement with the Justice Department, Purdue and its president, chief legal officer, and former chief medical officer will pay more than $630 million in penalties and fines. They admitted to falsely claiming that OxyContin was less addictive, less subject to abuse, and less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms than other pain medications.

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