MANCHESTER, N.H. It's decision day in New Hampshire and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is optimistic he will beat rival Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
But if he doesn't, he is assuring supporters he's in it for the long haul.
"I do think it goes through Feb. 5," Romney told reporters in a polling place parking lot.
Romney acknowledged that McCain was an early leader in New Hampshire but now, after the weekend's debate and campaign events, he feels he has more supporters. He said he thinks it will be close and that he is getting support from previously undecided voters as well as young voters. The campaign has contacted 100,000 voters in the past few days to remind them not only to vote, but when they do, to vote for Romney.
Romney, his wife Ann and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. greeted voters this morning at the Brookside Congregational Church, the first of five polling places he'll hit to say hello to folks on their way to the polls in today's primary election.
"M-I-T-T, Mitt's the man for me!" yelled a crowd of supporters holding Romney signs, surrounded by supporters for other Republican and Democrat candidates as well.
Romney missed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee by just a few minutes before the first place finisher in the Iowa Caucus and his entourage left their own meet and greet with voters. The Associated Press reported that Rudy Giuliani chatted with Huckabee just before he left.
Most polling place close at 7 p.m. but some are open until 8 p.m., according to the New Hampshire Secretary of State Web site, so it will be several hours before Romney knows if all the "retail-politics" in the state has paid off.
At a second polling place visit in Bedford, Romney greeted more voters and at least one seemed to be happy election season is over.
"You're a nice guy but you've called my house way too much," said the voter as he walked into the school.
The 17 voters of Dixville Notch, a small town near the Canadian border, cast their traditional first ballots of the day. The Associated Press reported that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. received 7 votes, former Sen. John Edwards received 2 and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson received 1. Among Republicans, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. received 4 votes, Romney 2 and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani 1.
Romney's son Craig and his wife Mary went to the polling place to make one last pitch for support, according to the campaign. All five Romney sons, their wives and children are in New Hampshire today.
In Hart's Location, another early polling place, Obama received 9 votes, Hillary Rodham Clinton 3 and Edwards 1. On the Republican side, McCain received 6 votes, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 5, Ron Paul 4 and Romney 1.
A running joke among the traveling press corps Monday was whether or not to make the trek up to Dixville Notch to see the traditional vote."You want to go to the Notch?" asked one woman at Romney's event at the Nashua Country Club who overheard a plotting session while the crowd waited for the governor to show up. "That's God's country. You go up there and you might end up in Canada."
Unseen media chaos
Customers at Mary Ann's Diner in Derry, N.H., got an order of politician and a side of media to go with their sausage and eggs during Monday morning's breakfast rush when Mitt Romney bounded through the door to shake hands with the local electorate.
Politicians pressing the flesh with voters is a common enough sight on the nightly news or captured in newspaper photos. But what often goes unseen is the chaos of cords, fuzzy boom mikes, bright lights and cameras needed to capture these images.As Romney sat next to voters in a booth one wearing a Mitt Romney sticker on her face cameras and microphones were in an adjacent booth capturing their every move.
Chasing an autograph
Susan and Joe Perry's 5-year-old daughter Charlene Perry graces a Romney campaign pamphlet drinking a Coke at the diner's counter while Romney smiles at her and her mother.The couple returned with their children to Mary Ann's for breakfast on Monday upon hearing Romney was going to be in attendance. Susan Perry brought along a stack of the pamphlets, making sure the candidate autographed them.
Answer to pet problem?
At the Nashua Country Club's "Ask Mitt Anything" event, one woman stood up telling Romney she was going to ask him something that had not been asked of any presidential candidate yet.
The news media suddenly perked up, interested, while Romney braced himself for her question.
What, the woman queried, would Romney do as president to control the over-population of pets?When Romney admitted he didn't know much about that issue, the woman answered her own question suggesting the many undocumented immigrants Romney plans sending back to their home countries might be inclined to take an extra dog or cat with them when they leave.
They're going for Mitt
Following Fox New's forum between five Republican candidates Sunday night, a majority of people in a focus group convened by the network thought Romney did the best job.By show of hands only, most of the group came without allegiance to any candidate and by the end of the forum, also by show of hands, said they were going for Romney.
Stumpin' all over N.H.
With 24 hours before the New Hampshire primary, Romney was hitting the campaign trail early and often.Starting at 7 a.m. Monday in Nashua, the former Massachusetts governor greeted employees at defense contractor BAE Systems, New Hampshire's largest employer. Then it was on to Mary Ann's Diner in Derry, followed by a tour of the Timberland Corp. in Stratham. All that before 10:30 a.m.
Barry's take on Romney
Humorist Dave Barry on Romney's look: "I will say this about Mitt, he is the most clean-cut human I have ever seen. He makes Ken, of Ken and Barbie, look like Chewbacca."