Mitt Romney and his campaign team roll in to New Hampshire with confidence. The US Atlantic seaboard state in the northeast neighbours Massachusetts, where the Mormon multi-millionaire was governor for four years. He is expected to land a far better score here than his win by a mere eight votes in the Midwest state of Iowa.
This first primary is another key to securing the Republican Party nomination to run against Barack Obama for the US presidency.
The New Hampshire verdict is crucial, to position the contenders for the rest of their campaigns, ahead of the South Carolina showdown on January 21.
Dean Spilotes, a political analyst at New Hampshire University, said: “We’re a small state, about a million people in population total. It’s an opportunity for the candidates to really get out and meet citizens rather than rely primarily on campaign ads or fundraising, or other types or ways of campaigning, so there’s a real tradition here of retail politics and of testing the candidates face to face.”
Ron Paul, the Congressman for Texas, has been tipped as the best prospect to place second in the competition. He came in third in Iowa but he counts on making it to South Carolina riding high. While they are making nice with the voters, all the men running for the party’s winning ticket are under pressure from the others.
Former Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum’s strong finish in Iowa is not expected to do as well in New Hampshire. If weak support here is confirmed, it could spike his presidential ambitions for good. The reason he and his rivals are this pumped up is that the number two place is considered decisive.
Republican strategist Michael Dennehy said: “If someone surprises, if someone comes in a strong second place then, as it was for Rick Santorum in Iowa, it is a perceived victory and will built a huge momentum for that candidate going onto South Carolina and other primary states. It’s really… second place becomes the gold medal in New Hampshire.”
Widely seen as the most electable – the Republicans’ best chance of unseating Obama – Romney has nevertheless been the focus of a lot of unfavourable finger-pointing by his rivals for the nomination. They have been running far more negative advertisements against him than against the Democratic incumbent.
If Romney does clinch South Carolina they will be hoping he bears the criticism without a grudge.