THE MORNING LINE -- January 6, 2012 at 8:37 AM EDT
New Hampshire Giving Santorum a Fresh Look
GOP candidate Rick Santorum leaves an event at a Rotary Club breakfast in Manchester, N.H. Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images.
Good morning, dear readers, and hello again from New Hampshire, where it appears there is some movement taking place among the Republican presidential candidates, just not at the very top.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the favorite for Tuesday's primary, with a new Suffolk University/7 News poll giving him 41* percent, far outpacing Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who is in second with 18 percent. A WMUR poll is expected Friday, and an early preview found Romney at 44 percent, up two points since the poll was taken last month.
The jostling for third is where things really begin to get interesting, with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum getting a fresh look from some New Hampshire voters coming off his strong second-place showing in the Iowa caucuses. (With that fresh look comes new scrutiny, as multiple news outlets are publishing pieces about his Senate career and historic re-election loss in 2006.)
Santorum climbed to third in the Suffolk University/7 News poll, capturing the support of 8 percent of respondents, and he is campaigning vigorously across the state to build on his Iowa momentum, holding five campaign events Thursday and with another full schedule planned for Friday.
Your Morning Line co-author made it to Santorum's two morning events Thursday.
"This is one of those elections that will go down in history as to what course America will decide, and I believe you need to nominate someone who presents a very clear contrast," Santorum told a Rotary Club audience of about 50 at a breakfast in Manchester, before pivoting to an attack on Romney and former House speaker Newt Gingrich over their records on health care. "I've never been for government run health care. Never. Unlike the other two folks who are running here, who have supported individual mandates, who have supported top-down government health care, I never have."
Santorum urged the group to examine not just at what the candidates were saying they would do if elected president, but what they have done in the past.
"Look at who you trust when times get tough. Look at who you trust in elections when the hammer starts getting hit. You get ground down to your core. And if you have a solid core you can stand up to it. If you don't, the American people will know."
Merrimack town councilor and campaign supporter William W. Boyd compared the enthusiasm behind Santorum in New Hampshire to the amplifier in the Christopher Guest mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap," saying, "It's cranked up to 11."
Boyd says Santorum has "got a ground game in place" and will benefit from all the retail politicking he has done in the state. "He doesn't just give the Queen Mary wave and walk out the door," Boyd said of Santorum's campaign style.
All the new attention on Santorum drew Canterbury, N.H,. retiree Diane Modugno and her husband, Roy, to a mid-day town hall in Northfield.
"I didn't think he had a chance," Diane said, adding, "But, he hung in there and it feels like he deserves to be heard." Roy, meanwhile, said he was leaning toward Romney, because "I think he's the strongest against Obama."
Diane agreed that defeating the president was issue No. 1 for her as well, but she still was holding out hope for "the best of both worlds," a candidate "more conservative than Romney," but who can also "beat Obama."
The charge for Santorum is convincing New Hampshire GOP primary voters that he is that candidate.
HUNTSMAN SHARPENS ATTACK
GWEN IFILL: Are you suggesting that Mitt Romney isn't trustworthy?
JON HUNTSMAN: I'm saying, when you have half of Congress supporting you, you are not going to be inclined to want to take on the institution that needs to be changed.
GWEN IFILL: Why can't that be Mitt Romney?
JON HUNTSMAN: How can you do it when you are protected and supported by the status quo, which is Congress, an institution that carries 8 percent approval by the American people?
Don't miss Friday's NewsHour as Gwen sits down with five New Hampshire voters -- some decided; some undecided -- for a conversation about how their decisions are driven by their affinity for candidates, their disappointment with the status quo and their hope that a course correction is on the way.
On Thursday, Huntsman scooped up the backing of the Boston Globe, which had several harsh words for Romney. The close of the endorsement offered the paper's take on the campaign ahead:
Nonetheless, there is a widespread belief that Romney's campaign, like a well-designed corporate strategy, is bound for success. But even if Romney emerges as the nominee, it matters how he gets there. Already, the religious right, represented by Rick Santorum, and Tea Party activists, represented by Ron Paul, have pushed Romney in unwanted directions. In New Hampshire, Republican and independent voters have a chance, through Huntsman, to show him a sturdier model. Jon Huntsman would be a better president. But if he fails, he could still make Romney a better candidate.
Romney, meantime, announced Friday morning an endorsement from conservative Bay Buchanan.
The New York Times has a detailed look on the influence independents have in New Hampshire.
A new CNN poll of South Carolina primary voters is expected Friday afternoon.
EIGHT WASN'T ENOUGH?
KCCI reported Thursday night that a vote count in one precinct in Appanoose County, Iowa, is being called into question, with a Paul supporter claiming Romney was given 20 votes he didn't actually win in the caucuses.
"Edward True, 28, of Moulton, said he helped count the votes and jotted the results down on a piece of paper to post to his Facebook page. He said when he checked to make sure the Republican Party of Iowa got the count right, he said he was shocked to find they hadn't."
The assertion calls into question Romney's eight-vote margin of victory, but GOP officials cautioned that the official certification of the results takes two weeks.
"Out of respect to the candidates involved, party officials we will not respond to every rumor, innuendo or allegation during the two week process," GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said in a statement, adding, "Iowa GOP officials have been in contact with Appanoose County Republican officials tonight and do not have any reason to believe the final, certified results of Appanoose County will change the outcome of Tuesday's vote."
The voter, Edward True, signed an affidavit which stated that he had helped to count the vote after the caucus at the Garrett Memorial Library in Moulton. Mr. True claims that the results listed on the Google spreadsheet maintained by the Iowa Republican Party differed substantially from the count that had been taken at the caucus site. Mr. Romney had received only two votes in his precinct, Mr. True's affidavit said, but had been given credit for 22 by the state. That would be enough to flip Mr. Romney's eight-vote victory into a 12-vote win for Mr. Santorum.
(Also worth mentioning from this story: Nate Silver bumped into Santorum in his hotel lobby. "Mr. Santorum was in a jovial mood, joking about his sweater vests and the lack of sleep he had been getting. ... Mr. Santorum expressed a cheery indifference as to whether he had technically won the caucuses. 'I always said in Iowa that I had to beat Perry and Bachmann," he said. "I didn't really ever think I was going to win given where I was two weeks out. It just was fun watching it going up and down.'")
Things should get interesting this weekend with two debates and Texas Gov. Rick Perry returning to the campaign fray. The NewsHour team will be there.
In New Hampshire on Thursday, Santorum had a testy exchange with some college students about gay marriage.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza details what went wrong with Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign.
On Thursday night, the NewsHour hosted a discussion about the role of super political action committees, delving into the rules governing disclosure and the flood of ads the PACs are expected to buy for the presidential race.
Priorities USA Action and American Bridge 21st Century responded to Romney's new South Carolina ad. Watch the rebuttal here.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America bought airtime for an attack ad against New Hampshire Rep. Charlie Bass during the Saturday night and Sunday morning Republican presidential debate, a source tells the Morning Line. The ad, which focuses on Bass' support for Rep. Paul Ryan's budget blueprint overhauling Medicare, aired over the summer as well. Watch it here.
The Washington Post has a piece on face-to-face campaigning that is accompanied by a front-page photo of Huntsman with a goat.
The NewsHour's Judy Woodruff explored the question of retail politics: "Have we, with the advent of wall-to-wall cable television, high-speed Internet, Twitter, texting and Facebook, done away with the need for voters to meet presidential candidates in the flesh, in person?" Let Judy know what you think @judywoodruff
WE REGRET THE ERROR
Perry's on-again, off-again campaign had us a bit confused and the Morning Line mistakenly said he'd be back in South Carolina on Thursday for a packed schedule. We also had it wrong on the Political Calendar. Actually, Perry heads to New Hampshire for this weekend's debates and won't return to the Palmetto State until Sunday. Shop-owners who had been been preparing for his visit told the Morning Line they expect he'll reschedule the scrapped campaign stops next week.
TWEET OF THE MORNING
@amyewalter Meanwhile, another big diff btwn IA & NH, WMUR features story of restaurant banning pols from stumping there. #fitn
ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS ...
Don't miss Jeffrey Brown's interview with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Politico reports that members of Congress might again look to bipartisan seating for the upcoming State of the Union.
Roll Call's Kate Ackley notes that the nearly 100 former members of Congress who lost or retired in 2010 are now free to lobby their former colleagues. "[T]he shackles came off this week," Ackley writes.
And D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. resigned after being charged with embezzlement.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are in New Hampshire and listed in Eastern Time.
Mitt Romney hosts a dinner in Laconia at 6 p.m.
Newt Gingrich hosts town halls in Lebanon at 9 a.m., Newport at 11:15 a.m. and Salem at 7 p.m.
Jon Huntsman speaks to the New England College Convention in Concord at 9 a.m., speaks at a house party in Randolph at 6 p.m. and addresses the Littleton Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in Bretton Woods at 6:45 p.m.
Rick Santorum hosts town halls in Keene at 9:30 a.m., Dublin at 1 p.m. and Manchester at 4 p.m. He also will visit a sports shop in Jaffrey at 11:45 a.m. and attend a 6 p.m. Republican dinner in Nashua.
Rep. Ron Paul holds 2 p.m. rally in Nashua and a town hall in Durham at 7 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.
- Correction: An earlier version of this post had the incorrect figure for Romney.