THE MORNING LINE -- January 10, 2012 at 9:08 AM ET
Romney Eyeing a Second Win, Rivals Look South
People wait outside a polling station in Concord, N.H., before its doors opened Tuesday for primary voting. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.
Voting here in the Granite State has already begun, and as has been the case since 1960, Dixville Notch went first, right after midnight Tuesday.
Nine ballots were cast in the tiny, unincorporated village in northern New Hampshire just below the Canadian border, with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman capturing two votes each. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former House speaker Newt Gingrich received one vote apiece.
President Obama received three votes in the Democratic primary.
In Hart's Location, home to 29 registered voters, the GOP breakdown looked like this: Five votes for Romney, four for Paul, two for Huntsman and one each for Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Mr. Obama received 10 votes on the Democratic side.
The last polling sites in the state close at 8 p.m., and barring a startling surge by one of his rivals, it appears Romney will likely score a decisive victory, becoming the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate in the modern era to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. (Though the final tally of votes in Iowa, which gave Romney a slim margin of victory but has been called into question by a poll worker, won't be known until later this month.)
The NewsHour's Gwen Ifill (@pbsgwen) tweeted from the trail Monday afternoon: "Newt in NH: 'this election is wide open.'"
Is that really true? The drama in the GOP race involves the contenders who are expected to finish somewhere between second and fifth Tuesday night.
The battle for second appears to be a matchup between Paul and Huntsman, who has seen an uptick in his poll numbers ahead of the primary, with a Suffolk University/7News poll showing him at 13 percent, trailing Paul by seven points. (Romney placed first in the two-day tracking poll with 33 percent, but has seen his standing drop for five consecutive days.)
Romney's New Hampshire lead widened overnight, and the Real Clear Politics average of state polls puts Romney far ahead, with 37.8 percent. Paul stands at an average of 18.3 percent and Huntsman has 13 percent.
On Tuesday morning, Huntsman put out a closing argument in a web video, a positive spot talking about "real leadership" in the spirit of New Hampshire's Live Free or Die motto.
A second place finish for Huntsman would validate his all-in strategy in New Hampshire, since he skipped Iowa and moved his campaign operation here from Florida last September.
Where the former ambassador to China would go from there is another question. Huntsman is polling in the low single digits in South Carolina, which is next up on the GOP nominating calendar, and catching fire there will be considerably tougher given the more conservative tilt of the Republican electorate. But he announced plans for a South Carolina tour Wednesday that the campaign dubbed "Country First," the same slogan Sen. John McCain used in 2008.
In a setback, the Arizona secretary of state's office said Huntsman didn't qualify for the Feb. 28 primary ballot because his forms lacked an official signature.
For Paul, the question is not only whether he can hold onto second, but if he can demonstrate that his support is growing beyond the loyal base he's established. A second consecutive third-place finish might indicate he's hit his ceiling.
Two other candidates to keep an eye on are Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The polls in South Carolina have them locked in a close race for second, and the one who places higher in New Hampshire could have just a little bit more wind at his back heading into the Palmetto State primary in 11 days.
The Real Clear Politics average there has Romney with a 10.6 percent average lead on his rivals. Santorum has an average of 20.7 percent and Gingrich has an average of 19.7 percent.
Tune in Tuesday night for the NewsHour's analysis and coverage of the primary and for our election special at 11 p.m. ET.
A BIG DAY
Team NewsHour has been filing colorful reports and tweets from the ground.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza notes that Huntsman has made 158 visits to the state, follwed by Santorum with 86 and Romney with 75.
The New York Times' Nate Silver details the hopefuls' ground games and poll volatility in a piece accompanied by some nifty charts.
The Washington Post noted Tuesday that the five candidates seriously competing in the primary aren't alone, and Romney's name is third from the bottom of 30 names on the Republican ballot. Santorum's name is at the very end, and ex-hopefuls Rep. Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain appear toward the top:
More from the Post: "You ever think of running for president, New Hampshire is your place. Pay the secretary of state $1,000, and you're good to go."
A new Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll of Republican voters found Romney still holds a major lead nationally. He also is just barely winning the support of voters who agree with the Tea Party. The poll found of that group, 26 percent support Romney, while Santorum and Gingrich each draw 24 percent. The survey suggests GOP voters aren't thrilled with the candidates: "Roughly half (51%) of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say the candidates are excellent or good, while 44% say they are only fair or poor."
The Huffington Post's Jon Ward has a piece about Romney's Massachusetts roots.
Ward notes, "[T]hree Massachusetts senators -- Teddy Kennedy in 1980, Paul Tsongas in 1992, and John Kerry in 2004 -- and two Massachusetts governors -- Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Romney in 2008 -- have run unsuccessfully for president."
Overlooked Monday night, Gingrich had to scrap a planned appearance at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters after protesters swarmed the entrance, the Associated Press reported:
About 40 protesters showed up Monday evening carrying placards reading "Ron Paul" and "Occupy." One played speeches by presidential candidate Ron Paul from a loud speaker.
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond says the former House speaker's private security detail decided to cancel the event because of security concerns regarding the entrance and exit to the building.
WHAT THE PRESIDENT IS UP TO
"A lot of these changes weren't easy and some of them were risky," President Obama told campaign donors at a fundraiser in Washington Monday night, outlining what he says he has accomplished in three years.
"[I]t's no secret I haven't always taken the politically popular course, certainly not with the crowd in Washington," the president said. "But this progress has been possible nevertheless because of you, because you guys didn't stop believing. You stood up. You made your voices heard. You were out there knocking on doors. You made phone calls. You kept up the fight for change long after the election was over."
He continued with an argument voters are likely to hear again before the GOP chooses its nominee:
And that should make you proud, but it should also make you hopeful. It shouldn't make you satisfied. It shouldn't make us complacent. We have so much more work to do. And everything we fought for during the last election is at stake in this election. The very core of what this country stands for is on the line -- the basic promise that no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, this is a place where you could make it if you try. The notion that we're all in this together, that we look out for one another -- that's at stake in this election. Don't take my word for it. Watch some of these debates that have been going on up in New Hampshire.
The Obama campaign has organized a series of house parties, and Vice President Joe Biden will dropping in via teleconference to rally the grassroots ground troops and take questions.
On Monday's NewsHour, USA Today's Susan Page noted that since President Obama plans to campaign against Congress, it's not a huge surprise he no longer needs a chief of staff to help make deals with them.
THE SPENDING TO COME
Paul announced plans for a Saturday "money bomb," telling supporters the funds would be used to compete in South Carolina.
"The simple truth is, none of our campaign's hard work in New Hampshire would have been possible without you and the thousands of other grassroots patriots who have rallied to our cause," Paul wrote in an email. "Installing experienced staff on the ground, running top-notch ads, sending thousands of pieces of hard-hitting mail, spending countless hours making phone calls, and doing everything else it takes to run a winning campaign doesn't come cheap."
South Carolina voters should expect a flood of ads, with the pro-Romney super PAC spending $2.3 million there and a pro-Gingrich super PAC planning $3.4 million in spots, the New York Times reported:
So far, voters in South Carolina have already seen more than 5,500 presidential campaign ads. In New Hampshire, by contrast, voters had seen just 2,800 presidential campaign spots as of Monday morning, according to the Kantar Media Campaign Media Analysis Group.
The Center for Public Intregrity's iWatch outlines the super PAC donating and spending to come.
And Mother Jones profiles Carl Forti of the pro-Romney Restore our Future group.
TWEET OF THE MORNING
ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS...
Longtime Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., will announce his retirement Tuesday, according to his local newspaper.
Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., announced his retirement over the weekend.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about redistricting in Texas and the Voting Rights Act, and another about EPA regulations. Marcia Coyle talked with Jeff Brown on the NewsHour Monday.
"The conference committee formed at the behest of House Republicans to deal with a long-term extension of the payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefits and Medicare doctor payments has already begun its work, albeit slowly," Roll Call's Meredith Shiner reports.
And the paper's Ambreen Ali scooped that the Republican National Committee plans to roll out a major Hispanic outreach effort in the coming weeks.
Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown, one of the few Republicans the Democrats believe they have a chance to unseat this fall, raised $3 million in the fourth quarter and has $12.8 million in the bank for his race against likely foe Elizabeth Warren.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
Ron Paul visits polling places in Nashua, Manchester, Derry, Bedford and Merrimack beginning at 9 a.m.
Newt Gingrich visits polling sites in Manchester at 9:30 a.m., Bedford at 10:30 a.m., Merrimack at 1:30 p.m. and Hollis at 2:30 p.m.
Jon Huntsman drops by a polling site in Manchester at 12 p.m.
Rick Perry campaigns in South Carolina, with a meet-and-greet in Rock Hill at 9 a.m., a town hall in Fort Mill at 10:45 a.m. and another meet-and-greet in Leesville at 5:30 p.m.
Romney, Huntsman, Gingrich, Paul and Santorum will all hold primary night parties Tuesday evening.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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