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 former Massachusetts governor 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 had 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 after another "Ask Mitt Anything" event in Derry.
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 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 challenges, such as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
"Nobody attacks problems harder," he said.
SIGNS OF THE SEASON: Other indications that it's primary season in New Hampshire:
• 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.
ON THE ROAD: The most sought-after item on the dinner buffet for journalists on the presidential campaign trail: chicken soup.
With Many reporters here still on the trail from last Thursday's Iowa caucus, coughs and sniffles from cold weather and sheer exhaustion are common. And that buzzing sound next to you might not just be a Blackberry or cell phone.At least two cordless razors came out of laptop cases for a quick touch-up on two different male scribes.
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