New Hampshire notebook

Published: Saturday, Jan. 5 2008 4:00 p.m. MST

While packing a snow ball, Republican presidential hopeful, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, playfully warns some kids that he his going to throw over a ball while arriving to a house party in Bedford, New Hampshire, today.

LM Otero, Associated Pres

Enlarge photo»

Bedford, N.H. — Lori and Rich Ashooh were supposed to be in Hawaii this week, but instead found themselves hosting a standing-room-only crowd of roughly 100 people in their living room to hear Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann speak.

And they wouldn't have it any other way.

Welcome to New Hampshire.

Instead of a sandy beach, the Ashoohs faced their snow covered lawn and salt crusted cars lining their street as guests piled in to meet the candidate.

Lori Ashooh said the idea was that maybe 70 friends and family would show up to listen to Romney, but once she started to have to move furniture to

accommodate the crowd, she knew it had grown to be a bigger event. The light fixture that usually hangs over the kitchen table was in the way, but it just was too hard to get down.

The combination of voters, journalists and campaign staff covered the entire lower level of their house. Bob Novak was spotted in the driveway. Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri gave a press conference on the deck overlooking the yard with fresh sled marks in the snow. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., introduced Romney, who stood in front of the fireplace dotted with photos of the five Ashooh children.

Romney stopped there Saturday as part of his latest push for votes ahead of the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary, just days after his second place finish in the Iowa Caucus. He visited a coffee shop in Hampstead before heading to the Ashoohs and after another "Ask Mitt Anything" event in Derry. He will debate his opponents tonight at Saint Anselm College before another debate Sunday night.

Similar to people in Iowa, New Hampshire voters need to meet their candidates to seal the deal for the vote. Once the Jan. 8 date was set, politicking replaced Polynesia for the Ashoohs.

"It's something we can do and we think can make a difference," said Rich Ashooh, vice president of legislative affairs for a defense contractor, the largest employer in New Hampshire. The last time he had a house event was for Bob Dole in 1988. Ashooh also heads the New Hampshire Political Library board of directors.

Ashooh said this weekend is about the "undecideds" and specifically sought out friends and family members who still have not committed to a candidate.

Lori Ashooh, an obvious Romney supporter said at first she thought the former Massachusetts Governor was "too polished and slick" but once she met him and heard what he had to say she was sold.

Rich Ashooh said Romney's message "resonates" with New Hampshire voters. He said he likes the way Romney manages problems, such as the 2002 Winter

Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"Nobody attacks problems harder," he said.

Other signs it's primary season in New Hampshire include:

• The cab driver saying "between you and me I hope he wins" as he dropped a reporter off in front of the Ashooh house.

• More than a dozen John McCain supporters holding McCain signs in front of the Romney campaign headquarters in downtown Manchester.

• T-shirts in the airport gift shop specifically made just for primary season.

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