Romney Puts His Eggs In New Hampshire Basket

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is campaigning hard in New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Jan.10. The former Mass. Governor has seven events scheduled Thursday. He's been focusing on New Hampshire's primary rather than the Iowa caucuses.

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Mitt Romney is logging a lot of miles in New Hampshire. He's traveling throughout the state on his campaign bus trying to nail down a victory in these final weeks before Republicans there cast their ballots in the presidential primary. NPR's Ari Shapiro is following Romney on the campaign trail.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Four events yesterday, seven today, and a few more on Friday in the final hours before Christmas. That's the schedule Romney signed onto this week in order to make sure he doesn't lose New Hampshire, the state in his own back yard. The itinerary is heavy on handshakes, light on speeches. Just the kind of thing New Hampshire voters expect a few weeks before they go to the polls.

MITT ROMNEY: Hi there. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Good.

ROMNEY: Good. Want a piece of pizza?

SHAPIRO: Village Pizza sits right on Newport, New Hampshire's picturesque main street. I found Pat Mulhearn just a few blocks up the road on his way to meet the guy he hopes will be the next president. Mulhearn owns a local manufacturing company.

PAT MULHEARN: The current president has to go because there's so much indecision. I'm a business owner. I don't know whether I should expand, contract, I don't know what my tax liabilities are going to be. There's just so much uncertainty out there that as a businessman I am not doing anything. I'm just holding on.

SHAPIRO: Some of the current tax uncertainty is because of gridlock in Congress. At Romney's next stop in Hanover, he said the partisan bickering has to end, though he did not say how he would handle the current standoff over extending unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut.

ROMNEY: From the White House on down it's been attack, attack, attack. And we have to move beyond this partisan attacking and start realizing this is the country.

SHAPIRO: He was speaking to a crowd of employees at the Hyper Therm manufacturing plant after a factory tour. His wife Ann introduced him, as she does at many of the stops on this trip. They publicly refer to each other as sweetheart and note that they've been together since they were 15.

ANN ROMNEY: We've been dating - we dated for a long time and then we got married and have had this wonderful family. And in every instance of my life that I have seen Mitt, I have seen an outstanding character, lots of integrity.

SHAPIRO: That's the Romney campaign's effort to contrast their candidate with Newt Gingrich, who has been married three times. Neither of the spouses ever mentions Gingrich by name. Romney aims his fire at President Obama. At Hyper Therm he accused the president of trying to replace America's merit-based society with a welfare-based society.

ROMNEY: It breaks my heart to see fundamental founding principles of America being twisted and distorted by politicians.

SHAPIRO: After the big blue Romney bus left Hanover, it wound through dark and icy streets to the last stop of the night in Ashland.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

SHAPIRO: The line is snaking around the American Legion Hall on this cold night for this spaghetti feast where Mitt Romney and his wife Ann are dishing it out. Mitt Romney has the spaghetti, Ann has the sauce. They both have white aprons over their white shirts.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Thank you. Why, when you get free spaghetti, you're really enthusiastic.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: He gave one more push for people to go out and vote. It's an order that Eleanor Whorl tends to follow. She's been a Romney supporter since he took second place in the 2008 primaries. She's not worried that his poll numbers this year have been stuck at a ceiling.

ELEANOR WHORL: I think partially it's the fact that there are so many really good people that are running that are in a position to make a difference. I think if there weren't so many good people, he probably would rise to the top much faster.

SHAPIRO: And do you think this kind of retail politicking, coming and meeting people and shaking hands, eating spaghetti, will make a big difference for him?

WHORL: Well, it made a difference to me when I met him back in 2008, I guess it was. Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Really? That was what did it for you?

WHORL: We met him in a diner and had a couple minutes' chat with him at our table, sitting and getting to know him a little bit. And that made a big difference, when you get to know them personally.

SHAPIRO: So Romney will be doing more of the same all across the state through the end of the week. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Littleton, New Hampshire.

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