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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

If New Hampshire seems a bit crowded this week, it's not by accident. The filing deadline for the nation's first primary is Friday, and candidates from both parties have descended on the state. Two of the leading Republican candidates, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani - both held events today.

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson attended both and joins us now from Manchester. And Mara, according to most polls, Mitt Romney has a huge lead in Iowa but a narrower advantage in New Hampshire. Is that square with what you're hearing there?

MARA LIASSON: Yes, it certainly does. You know, Romney started at about 3 percent in the polls here. That is surprisingly low for a Massachusetts governor. But he spent millions of dollars on television, a lot of time in the state. He built an impressive organization. Today, he got the endorsement of Senator Judd Gregg. And he basically got himself a small lead here.

But he's had a lot of things to worry about. First, Rudy Giuliani is a close second. Now, he has to be concerned about Fred Thompson who also was in the state today, filing his papers for candidacy. And he has to worry about John McCain, who've won here in 2000 and is still running strong.

SIEGEL: Giuliani, a close second you say, and he's there without spending nearly as much money as Governor Romney has spent.

LIASSON: He hasn't spent very much money at all. He spent no money at all on television, yet, only radio ads and direct mail. In an interview with me today, he said that the television ads will come soon. He's also beginning to spend a lot more time in the state.

For a while, he was really focusing on Florida, which votes on January 29th and all those big February 5th states like New York and New Jersey and Illinois and California and Texas. But he says he has to be - knows he has to do well in some of the early states. And New Hampshire is certainly one that is available to him.

SIEGEL: Now, back in 2000, New Hampshire was McCain country. He beat George W. Bush by a wide margin in the primary. John McCain seems to be making an effort at being called the comeback kid this time around. How's he doing at it?

LIASSON: Well, he'd certainly like to be the comeback kid. He did, as you said, he did win here in 2000. He's running a pretty strong third. And what's interesting about his support here, the polls show that his supporters are among the most loyal. In other words, they're pretty convinced they're going to stick with him.

The question for McCain, of course, is even if he did manage to pull off an upset and win New Hampshire again, what next? He's really out of money. It's very similar to the situation in 2000, where he doesn't necessarily have the resources to go on even if he should win here.

Well, over to the Democrats now. The sense we get from afar is that regardless of what happens to Hillary Clinton in Iowa, in New Hampshire, she's fine.

LIASSON: Well, that certainly is a sense that the Clinton campaign wants you to have. They believe they built a firewall in New Hampshire. She has such a commanding lead, 20 percent in some polls over Barack Obama, that even if she lost to him in Iowa, she'd be justified in New Hampshire. Hard to tell. I mean, it depends on how much she might lose Iowa by. But she does feel that she's very strong and could afford a loss in Iowa.

SIEGEL: Explain one thing to us. We know when the filing deadline is for the New Hampshire primary. We don't when the primary is.

LIASSON: We don't. However, I think the long period of suspense is going to be over, Robert, because this Friday, the secretary of state is probably going to announce the dates. The smart money is on January 8th. He said it would be no later than the eight. It wouldn't be in December. So I think that we're all going to find out when we have pack our warm clothes to get up here in January very, very soon.

SIEGEL: Okay, Mara, thank you. It's NPR's Mara Liasson in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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