With One Day to Go in New Hampshire, Who Can Catch Romney?

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  January 9, 2012 at 8:53 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A young fan of Mitt Romney reaches out to shake his hand during a rally at Exeter High School on Sunday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Voters here in the Granite State are a day away from becoming the second state to weigh in on which Republican presidential candidate will represent the party against President Obama in November.

Roughly 325,000 New Hampshire residents are expected to show up — 75,000 of them for the Democratic primary, the Union Leader reports.

The latest WMUR poll out Sunday found former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 41 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 17 percent, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman tied with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at 11 percent and former House speaker Newt Gingrich at 8 percent.

At a Saturday morning rally in Derry attended by one of your Morning Line co-authors, Romney urged his supporters not to let up. “Don’t get too confident with those poll numbers. I’ve watched polls come and go. Things change very quickly. It’s very fluid. I need to make sure you get your friends to go out and vote and you vote as well.”

The front-runner reinforced that message Monday morning with the release of a new web video called “Tomorrow. Earn It.”

The clip begins with text on the screen that reads, “Tomorrow, January 10, 2012,” then “New Hampshire Will Stand Up and Be Counted,” followed by Romney declaring, “This election is about more than just replacing a president, it’s about saving a vision of America.”

The video closes with Romney saying: “We’re going to get the job done and keep America the greatest nation in the history of the earth. Thanks you guys!” Text reading, “Make history. Earn It for Mitt,” ends the video.

It appears Romney is taking nothing for granted in the Granite State, bringing in top surrogates such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for Sunday rallies. For Romney, the key in New Hampshire is not just to win, but do so with a big enough margin to give him the momentum he needs heading into South Carolina in 12 days.

RACE FOR SECOND PLACE

Sunday’s WMUR poll just confirms what has been pretty clear since Romney eeked out a win in Iowa’s caucuses last week — it’s a race between the other hopefuls to get close and cruise into South Carolina with some juice.

Romney is holding steady in the mid-30 percent range, with his closest challenger in the low-20s in most polls. The left-leaning Public Policy Polling found that Huntsman has a “very good chance” of finishing second, with its survey shows him gaining on Paul.

Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) visited each New Hampshire campaign headquarters. He tweeted the headcounts he found there: Romney 110, Paul 40, Huntsman 35, Santorum 30, Gingrich 12, Texas Gov. Rick Perry 1.

Consider this graf in Walter Shapiro’s New Republic piece about the primary, which he calls the most boring he’s covered since 1979:

At the Romney rally in Rochester, I found myself seated by chance next to Bill Mayer, a Northeastern University political scientist and expert on presidential primaries. Between the two of us, we toted up nine different New Hampshire presidential primaries in which the conventional wisdom was upended by a last-minute electoral tidal wave. Our list: Hillary Clinton’s 2008 upset; John McCain’s dramatic 2000 sweep; Pat Buchanan’s 1996 charge; George Bush’s 1988 landslide over Bob Dole; Gary Hart’s 1984 upstart defeat of Walter Mondale; Ronald Reagan’s 1980 wipeout of George Bush; Ed Muskie’s 1972 collapse; Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 “snows of New Hampshire” embarrassment of Lyndon Johnson; and Henry Cabot Lodge’s 1964 write-in victory.

It’s an impressive tribute to the stubborn independence of New Hampshire voters. But the list is very unlikely to get a 10th entry this year.

BAIN FROM ALL FRONTS

Romney’s tenure running investment firm Bain Capital is under intense scrutiny.

The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Maremont writes, “Amid anecdotal evidence on both sides, the full record has largely escaped a close look, because so many transactions are involved.”

From the story:

The Wall Street Journal, aiming for a comprehensive assessment, examined 77 businesses Bain invested in while Mr. Romney led the firm from its 1984 start until early 1999, to see how they fared during Bain’s involvement and shortly afterward.

Among the findings: 22% either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses. An additional 8% ran into so much trouble that all of the money Bain invested was lost.

Another finding was that Bain produced stellar returns for its investors–yet the bulk of these came from just a small number of its investments. Ten deals produced more than 70% of the dollar gains.

Some of those companies, too, later ran into trouble. Of the 10 businesses on which Bain investors scored their biggest gains, four later landed in bankruptcy court.

We bet the chart that goes with the piece is tacked up in some cubicles in Chicago.

The piece will be fodder for more attack ads, but several are in the works or already bubbling online.

The pro-Gingrich Winning our Future super PAC posted this video Sunday night going after Bain. It features people who said they were laid off thanks to actions from Bain.

Starting Monday, the PAC, which is run by ex-Gingrich aides, will spend $1 million on ads in South Carolina focused on Bain, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Also worth noting, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson just funnelled $5 million into Winning our Future.

The Democratic National Committee joins in with a brutal web ad questioning Romney’s math when he says he helped create 100,000 jobs via his work at Bain.

The DNC also cut a web video of Sunday morning’s debate hitting Romney for saying he hadn’t seen the pro-Romney super PACs ads attacking Gingrich, and then describing an ad he’d seen.

During that debate, Gingrich said those super PAC ads were inaccurate, and Romney said he hopes “everything that’s wrong” is removed from any ads. “Anything wrong I’m opposed to,” Romney said. “That is not my ad.” Romney did say he found Gingrich’s recent provocative statements about him “over the top.”

The pro-Romney Restore our Future PAC will be up soon with new ads going after Gingrich, the Boston Herald reported.

WHAT YOU MISSED IF YOU WATCHED FOOTBALL

Social issues were a major focus of Saturday night’s ABC debate. Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner breaks down the discussion of gay rights issues.

During Sunday’s NBC debate, Huntsman walked back an earlier statement from the morning. Here’s the exchange between Huntsman and moderator David Gregory:

Q: You seemed to be a little bit uncomfortable with a moment from earlier in this debate cycle when everybody said that they would reject even a 10 to one ratio of cuts to new taxes.

A: It was — it was a silly format. I mean it was an important question they asked us to raise our hands. I mean for heaven’s sake, we didn’t get a chance to talk about it. I put a tax reform proposal on the table endorsed by the Wall Street Journal that goes farther than anybody else’s on this stage. It calls for what absolutely needs to be done. And everybody knows about it.

The Washington Times’ Ralph Z. Hallow got the scoop on a conference call of prominent evangelical leaders and writes that the group “agreed in a conference call last weekend that finding a mutually acceptable candidate to stop Mitt Romney is not likely to happen at a private meeting scheduled for this coming weekend.”

“Will they coalesce around one candidate? It is possible, but not probable,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Hallow.

The Washington Times’ Seth McLaughlin (@sethmclaughlin1) interviewed Romney on the road, and the front-runner compared himself to Popeye.

From McLaughlin’s story:

“I’m not going to veer to the left or veer to the right or jump to the middle. As Popeye used to say, ‘I am what I am and that’s all what I am,’ ” he told The Washington Times in an interview. “I do believe that my principles are conservative Republican principles, conservative American principles, and I think by continuing to refer to the blueprint of America, the Constitution of America, and the course laid out by the founders that conservative Republicans as well as independents and Democrats will come to my support.”

Roll Call’s David Drucker caught up with Sen. Rand Paul after a campaign event, and the Kentucky Republican admitted his dad could do a better job explaining his foreign policy.

“His position is not anti-Israel,” Paul said. “It’s not too dissimilar from the three previous heads of the U.S. Central Command. … In reality, if you read through a lot of foreign policy literature, three generals believe fairly similar things, and even the head of Israel’s Mossad is saying something similar to Ron Paul now, and you don’t quite get that.”

ACTION IN OTHER STATES

A new Quinnipiac poll of Florida voters finds Romney in the lead with 36 percent, Gingrich at 24 percent, followed by Santorum at 16 percent and Paul at 10 percent.

Little noticed on Friday, Paul’s campaign announced two weeks of voter outreach and phone banking in Nevada ahead of the contest no one is noticing. “The Ron Paul campaign is serious about a competitive showing in the February 4th Nevada Caucus. These events will energize voters and other stakeholders to ensure that our seriousness translates into tangible results,” Paul 2012 Nevada chairman Carl Bunce said in a statement.

Paul is targeting Santorum in South Carolina with a 60-second ad attacking him as a lobbyist and career politician. The Washington Post reported that it’s a $250,000 buy ahead of the Jan. 21 primary. It focuses on Santorum’s congressional record and spending. “Don’t be fooled .. Rick Santorum a record of betrayal … another serial hypocrite that can’t be trusted.”

Perry is on a 15-day South Carolina tour, making his play with the last of his cash instead of competing in New Hampshire. Several polls show Perry tied at 1 percent with former Gov. Buddy Roemer in New Hampshire. At the Sunday debate, Perry framed himself as the man who can “invigorate the tea party” and said his rivals on the stage all look like “insiders.”

WHAT’S OBAMA UP TO?

Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer penned a memo Friday promising the party would keep after President Obama for “failed promises” by comparing his record to what he said he’d do when campaigning in 2008.

“Our analysis tells us this is a winning strategy. Poll after poll, focus group after focus group tells us this argument rings true with voters. It appeals to people’s sense of reason and responsibility. It’s a logical, reasonable, non-partisan argument. And it’s especially salient with independent voters,” Spicer wrote.

Disappointment with the president was among the themes that emerged from Gwen Ifill’s (@pbsgwen) conversation with New Hampshire voters about what’s driving them to the polls. (And here’s Gwen’s take on Santorum in New Hampshire.)

But the Democrats aren’t sitting back as the GOP works to choose its nominee.

President Obama has campaign events Monday night in Washington and will attend a big Chicago fundraiser later this week.

The Chicago Sun Times’ Lynn Sweet reported on Twitter that Vice President Joe Biden will teleconference with New Hampshire supporters on Tuesday.

The Obama team also deployed Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to write an op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader headlined “Romney’s foreign policy merits tough questions.”

Mark Shields and David Brooks said the slowly improving economy could help President Obama’s prospects for re-election. Here’s their chat with Judy Woodruff (@judywoodruff) Friday.

Tune into Monday’s NewsHour for analysis from Stuart Rothenberg and Susan Page.

TWEETS OF THE MORNING

@burlij Monday morning papers outside diner in New Hampshire. One day until the #nhprimary instagr.am/p/fuq7O/

@HowardKurtz Newt tells Charlie Rose on new CBS morning show that he was running “almost a Charlie Rose-style campaign” of ideas. A new slogan!

@fawnjohnson Ten years of No Child Left Behind #nclb. Read my feature about its legacy tinyurl.com/6pa5mp7 and blog tinyurl.com/6qbwj5y

ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS…

Roll Call’s Kate Tummarello Googled every single member of Congress, and the paper published her months’ long, detailed look at the most frequent suggested search terms associated with their names.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., attended a vigil marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting massacre in Tucscon.

The New York Times’ Bill Keller thinks President Obama needs to look to Hillary Clinton.

The Supreme Court meets Monday and will hear about Texas redistricting and the Voting Rights Act.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Jon Huntsman holds six New Hampshire meet-and-greets: in Lebanon at 8 a.m., Claremont at 8:45 a.m., Henniker at 10:15 a.m., Concord at 11:15 a.m., Dover at 1 p.m. and Nashua at 3:45 p.m. He closes the campaign day with a rally in Exeter at 7 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich campaigns in New Hampshire, holding a meet-and-greet in Dover at 8 a.m., a town hall in Manchester at 11 a.m., a meet-and-greet in Nashua at 1 p.m., a town hall in Hudson at 4 p.m., a campaign headquarters event in Manchester at 6 p.m. and a college football watch party in Concord at 9 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney attends a Nashua Chamber of Commerce breakfast at 8:20 a.m., discusses jobs and the economy in Hudson at 11:35 a.m. and holds a rally in Bedford at 5:55 p.m.

  • Ron Paul hosts meet-and-greets in Manchester at 8;45 a.m. and Hollis at 10:30 a.m., then holds a town hall in Stratham at 2 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum hosts a town hall in Nashua at 9 a.m., attends another town hall in Salem at 10:45 a.m., visits a diner in Derry at 12:30 p.m., holds a third town hall in Somersworth at 3:30 p.m. and finishes up with a rally in Manchester at 7:15 p.m.

  • Rick Perry campaigns in South Carolina, stopping in Anderson at 8:30 a.m., Pickens at 10:15 a.m., Greenville at 12:15 p.m. and back in Greenville at 5:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


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Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @quinnbowman.