Evan Vucci, Associated Press
Presidential candidates Jon Huntsman Jr. and Newt Gingrich talk with Mitt Romney at a Republican presidential debate.

With the clock ticking ever closer to Jan. 10 and the New Hampshire presidential primary that will make or break the candidacy of Jon Huntsman Jr., the Huntsman campaign called attention Wednesday to the apparently vulnerable underbelly of Mitt Romney's reputation as a businessman who creates jobs.

"Jon Huntsman's campaign said Wednesday that jobs lost at a company managed by rival Mitt Romney counter his claims of being a job creator," Associated Press reports. "Huntsman's campaign and allies said Romney's venture capital firm oversaw more than 100 layoffs in New Hampshire while it eventually reaped millions in profits."

Politico further elaborates: "In a call with reporters this morning, two New Hampshire Huntsman surrogates hit Mitt Romney on his tenure at Bain Capital, and in particular how Bain caused layoffs in the state."

The two Team Huntsman mouthpieces were Scott Pope, former mayor of Claremont — the New Hampshire city where the layoffs occurred — and Don Gobin, chamber of commerce president for nearby Grantham, N.H. The layoffs came from Holson Burnes, a company that shut down its plant in the Granite State in 2005 on the recommendation of Bain Capital, the company Romney founded.

"Pope said the reason he was given for the closure was that the company was going to move plant operations to Mexico," the Boston Globe reported. "Asked by a reporter whether this was simply the free market at work, Pope said the president has a responsibility to provide opportunity for people. And he said, while Romney has talked about creating jobs, 'What I saw in the past, that didn't happen.'"

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded to the negative claims Wednesday by telling the Associated Press, "President Obama and his friends on the left are continuing their attacks on the free-enterprise system, and by attacking free enterprise they are willingly dividing Americans. Mitt Romney has a quarter-century of experience working with entrepreneurs and real businesses in the real economy."

In New Hampshire polling conducted Dec. 16-18 among likely voters in the upcoming Republican presidential primary, Public Policy Polling pegs Romney first in the GOP field with 35 percent, and slots Huntsman in fourth place with 13 percent.