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Complete Coverage: The N.H. GOP Primary

Wednesday, 2 p.m.: All precincts are finally in. Here’s the tally:
1 – Romney – 39 percent
2 – Paul – 23 percent
3 – Huntsman – 17 percent
4 – Santorum – 9 percent
5 – Gingrich – 9 percent

Tuesday, 11 p.m.: Happen to miss Primary Night? Replay our live-blog coverage, below, and watch all five Republican candidates’ speeches here.

As NPR notes, “Goodbye New Hampshire, hello South Carolina: Gingrich, Huntsman, Paul, Perry, Romney and Santorum all have events [tommorrow] in the Palmetto State.”

Live Blogging: 2012 N.H. GOP Primary

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.: Programming notes: When the polls close, follow the “Vote 2012″ bar atop this post for live returns. We’ll also transition this “rolling coverage” into a live-blog, embedded above. Additionally, at 7 p.m., 90.9 WBUR will begin live radio coverage, so tune in.

Before that, a few final figures to consider:

- New York Times number-cruncher Nate Silver has crunched the latest numbers and gives Romney a 98.9 percent chance of winning New Hampshire.

But we knew he was a big favorite. More specifically, Silver predicts Romney to finish with 39 percent of the vote (with a high forecast of 47 percent and low forecast of 27 percent). His model then has Paul most likely at 19 percent (high: 27 percent; low: 11 percent) and Huntsman most likely at 17 percent (high: 26 percent; low: 9 percent).

- However, ABC’s Rick Klein tweets: “looking at record high independent turnout in NH primary, per preliminary exit poll results.”

Independents generally favor Paul and Huntsman, meaning the gap behind Romney could be smaller than Silver’s forecast, for example.

Tuesday, 6:10 p.m.: If there’s disagreement on candidate choices, WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer found consensus on this: “concern about what a difficult job lies ahead for whoever the next president is.” Listen to their concerns, at right:

Tuesday, 5:25 p.m.: WBUR’s Martha Bebinger has this snapshot of a polling place in Exeter:

Susan and Bill Hennessey, in Exeter, N.H. (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

Susan and Bill Hennessey, in Exeter, N.H. (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

Eighteen-year-old Conner Brown came out of the voting booth this afternoon with a wide grin. He had just cast his first vote as an adult for Ron Paul. “He stands for the values of our Founding Fathers,” Brown said, “and he doesn’t back down when his stand is not popular.” Paul had the support of a half-dozen other voters in their teens and 20s who voted at Exeter High School.

Romney had the largest number of votes in a very unscientific sampling of residents who stopped to chat about the primary in the mid-afternoon. Santorum and Huntsman had some support. I did not hear from anyone who chose Gingrich.

Bill Hennessey wrote in a candidate. “I cannot believe how unimpressive this year’s field of Republicans is,” he said.

“Is this the best we can do in this great country of ours?” asked Susan Hennessey, who is registered Democrat and voted for President Obama. Other Democrats who turned out said they’d be most worried about Obama running against Jon Huntsman.

Tuesday, 5:00 p.m.: RadioBoston talked Granite State again today, including the waning influence of the Tea Party there. It was just over a year ago that the Tea Party stormed into Concord, with affiliated candidates taking majorities in both houses of the legislature. Jack Kimball, the former state GOP chair, discusses what happened to the Tea Party.

Tuesday, 4:20 p.m.: WBUR’s Jesse Costa found Paul (left) and Obama supporters vociferously debating outside a Manchester polling place today:

Obama and Paul supporters in Manchester

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Tuesday, 4:05 p.m.: “Many New Hampshire voters can’t wait for the primary to be over. … But for some New Hampshire businesses, primary season is a gift.”

In her piece this afternoon, WBUR All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer found one such benefiting business. In a normal January, owners Darlene and Eric Johnston say they typically fill 25 rooms at their Manchester B&B. Ten days into this January, they’re up to 70 rooms filled.

Tuesday, 3:20 p.m.: We’re reporting on the top-polling candidates, but there are a lot more names on the New Hampshire ballot, as this sample (PDF) shows.

Tuesday, 2:45 p.m.: WBUR’s Steve Brown checked out turnout in Nashua and filed this dispatch:

Ron Paul is interviewed at the Amherst Street School polling place in Nashua, N.H. (Steve Brown/WBUR)

Ron Paul is interviewed at the Amherst Street School polling place in Nashua, N.H. (Steve Brown/WBUR)

A steady stream of voters made their way into the gymnasium here at the Amherst Street School in Nashua’s Ward 3.

Many of the voters said they made up their minds at the last minute — some as they approached the ballot booth.

Poll warden Arthur “Skip” Barrett said he’s surprised turnout has been rather slow.

“Our turnout, our rate here, has been a little over 100 voters an hour, and that doesn’t extrapolate into a very high total at the end of the day,” he said.

Polls in smaller communities will be open until 7 p.m.; larger communities’ polls will close at 8 p.m.

Univision’s Jordan Fabian, on the other hand, found a packed polling place.

Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.: Just a quick heads up that the audio has been posted for both On Point and Here & Now, which also broadcasted from New Hampshire today. On Point discussed the Granite State, but then also zoomed out for the broad view on the 2012 election. Here & Now visited three New Hampshire municipalities and also looked ahead to the South Carolina primary.

Mitt Romney visits a polling station in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday. (AP)

Mitt Romney visits a polling station in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday. (AP)

Tuesday, noon: With voters busy voting, let’s do a midday recap of where the race stands and what we’re watching:

- Though “New Hampshire voters don’t like coronations,” as Dartmouth College professor Linda Fowler told us this morning, Romney appears headed for just that — in this state, at least. Today’s final Suffolk University daily tracking poll has the front-runner (37 percent) with a 19-point lead over Ron Paul (18 percent). (Huntsman is in third, at 16 percent.)

- As the AP writes, “[Romney's] five Republican opponents are hoping to finish well enough to fight on in future primaries. A narrower than expected win for Romney — or a surprisingly strong finish from one of his rivals — could weaken him.” NPR’s Frank James has a recap of what each candidate needs from New Hampshire.

Of note is the battle for second between very different candidates, Paul and Huntsman.

- And in recent days, Romney’s rivals have sharpened their criticisms, putting him on the defensive and taking him off-message. As the Boston Globe reported this morning:

A day after Romney, hoping to show empathy with workaday Americans, said he knew what it was like to fear a pink slip, the former Massachusetts governor made another unscripted remark — “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me’’ — that fueled his rivals’ efforts to paint him as wealthy and out of touch.

A pro-Gingrich Super PAC, boosted by a cash infusion from a casino magnate (who’s originally from Dorchester), is also out with an ad against Romney. The spot, which TIME’s James Poniewozik’s called “vicious,” indicates that the anti-Romney fusillade will likely continue.

Tuesday, 10:00 a.m.: As many advertisements as New Hampshire folks have seen this primary, the New York Times’ Jeremy Peters tweets that the real ad wars are going on in South Carolina:

Where the ad war isn’t. Ads shown in NH so far: 2,800. Ads shown in SC: 5,500. And there are still 11 days to go. http://nyti.ms/y3Wjhb

Tuesday, 9:20 a.m.: WBUR Morning Edition host Bob Oakes has a commentary looking back at past New Hampshire performances of Massachusetts Democrats, and how those finishes compare to expectations for Romney this year.

In 1988, Gov. Michael Dukakis won this state by 16 points. In 2004, Sen. John Kerry won by 12. “Both wins were hailed as big victories,” Oakes writes. However, in 1992, Sen. Paul Tsongas won by just eight points over eventual-nominee Bill Clinton, who was then “declared the Comeback Kid.”

Though some polls show this race tightening somewhat, many analysts are eyeing a 20-point victory margin for Romney today. As so often the case in politics, expectations — and performance relative to expectations — shape the narrative going forward.

Tuesday, 8:40 a.m.: Polls have been open nearly two hours here in New Hampshire, and for many of the dozens of voters we’ve spoken to, it’s a last-minute decision. Our Newscast unit reports, for instance, that Susan Armstrong, from New Boston, says she’s thinking Romney or Santorum.

“I worry about Romney, [that he] too much looks like the political guy, but you’re not quite sure,” she said. “But again, he has the business side, which I think is a positive.”

Peter Houde, an accountant from Nashua, says seeing Gingrich made him rethink his vote.

“I had leanings, but now you start wondering, and you go, OK, have to keep thinking about it,” he said.

Concord’s Laurel Brown was undecided yesterday, too. She told WBUR’s Curt Nickisch that she was going to make her decision last night over a glass of wine.

“I need to know before I get to the polls,” Brown said. “I don’t like making my decision at that point.”

Tuesday, 8 a.m.: This morning, WBUR’s David Boeri reported on the history of this primary, and how it achieved its first-in-the-nation status.

Invented in 1913, the primary had little bearing on the nation until it went to direct voting in 1952 when this newsreel set the mold of the thing: “The citizens of the Granite State are not easily won.”

Boeri traced the primary from its days when “there were no more than three networks, no cable, maybe 50 political reporters, and only a handful of primaries across the country,” to the political media frenzy of the current iteration. But, as Boeri concluded, “for all of its distance from the pure, picture book primary of old, New Hampshire still relishes its ability to say, ‘No, you can’t.’ ”

Tuesday, 6:45 a.m.: Good morning on Primary Day. Romney and Huntsman are off to the very, very early Republican lead. The AP reports on a two-vote-apiece tie between the two candidates in tiny Dixville Notch, a far northern village with nine residents that’s famed for casting this state’s first ballots just after midnight.

Monday, 7:30 p.m.: With 12 hours until polls open, the candidates are wrapping up/have wrapped up their final events in a long day of campaigning.

But, will voters turn out? Some serious frustration at the economy and Washington may keep many New Hampshire residents at home, WBUR’s Sacha Pfeiffer and Lynn Jolicoeur found in their piece this afternoon. An excerpt:

“I just feel very disconnected,” John Marinos said. “I don’t think it matters who gets in. I think it’s going to be politics as usual. My 9-year-old was asking who we’re gonna vote, and I said, ‘Well of course we’re gonna vote.’ I don’t even know if I’m going to vote, because, you know something, I don’t think it matters.”

Or this exchange between friends:

“Who’s going to really bring us to the forefront and save us?” Sally Corcoran questioned.

“They’re all idiots,” Carolyn Shost said.

Monday, 6:00 p.m.: So, obviously, the news world is focused on New Hampshire. (Just look at the length of this post.) But how much does the primary here matter? Sacha Pfeiffer posed this question to University of New Hampshire political history professor Kurk Dorsey, at right.

Jon Huntsman signs autographs in Nashua, N.H., Monday. (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

Jon Huntsman signs autographs in Nashua, N.H., Monday. (Martha Bebinger/WBUR)

Monday, 5:50 p.m.: WBUR’s Martha Bebinger checks in with a recap of a Huntsman event today:

Voters anxious for at least a glimpse of Huntsman climbed over barrels of flour and baking pans at tiny Crosby Bakery on a side street in Nashua. After months of campaigning here, some voters say they are finally giving Huntsman a serious look.

But it’s hard.

Many who stopped by the bakery could not get close enough to hear or see the man who hopes a last-minute surge will put him in second place tomorrow.

When asked how well he has to do to stay in the race, Huntsman replied, “I have to put a smile on Mary Kaye’s face,” referring to his wife, who ducked to avoid a swinging TV camera.

Huntsman laughed at the suggestion he might settle for the vice presidential spot on a ticket with Romney. Today he said he’s twisting arms and aiming to win as many votes as he can in the remaining hours of the primary here.

Monday, 5:30 p.m.: RadioBoston also brought in a trio of undecided voters to gauge what they’re still weighing at this late hour. Here’s a taste, from Don Byrne, an executive from Bedford, who says he’s leaning toward Huntsman:

“[There's] a little bit of a question about how to use our vote in this,” he said. “Am I voting to help eliminate people? Am I voting for people, against people, strategically, tactically? I’m really wrestling with that.”

Mitt Romney and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie at a campaign rally in Exeter, N.H., on Sunday (Luke Boelitz for WBUR)

Mitt Romney and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie at a campaign rally in Exeter, N.H., on Sunday (Luke Boelitz for WBUR)

Monday, 5:00 p.m.: An hour ago, RadioBoston finished up its live broadcast from our Manchester location. In an hour devoted to the primary, hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks discussed Huntsman’s “mini-surge” — up to 13 percent in the latest tracking poll.

Meghna referred to him as “the hardest-working man in Granite State politics,” as he’s held more than 160 events. During those events he’s conveyed a “realistic attitude about America’s place in the world.” But “will people buy a realist’s view?” Meghna asked.

In contrast, Anthony last night attended Romney’s upbeat, patriotic event in Exeter, a precision-run rally with more than 1,000 people. Again, Romney focused his attacks on President Obama. On the trail, he’s been helped in that by attack dog Chris Christie.

Newt Gingrich takes questions from the media following his Manchester event Monday. (Ben Swasey/WBUR)

Newt Gingrich takes questions from the media following his Manchester event Monday. (Ben Swasey/WBUR)

Monday, 3:15 p.m.: A minute into his event today at Public Service of New Hampshire, a utility here in Manchester, Gingrich called Obama “probably the most radical president in history.”

Over the next half hour, Gingrich touted his credentials as the best “Reagan conservative” to make Obama a one-term president. Following the event, and having moved past his positive campaign pledge, Gingrich turned his aim to front-runner Romney, whom he criticized as a “Massachusetts moderate,” a term Gingrich has used a number of times recently.

The lines on Romney, delivered to a roomful reporters, came after Gingrich’s policy-heavy address. The former professor advocated plans for tax cuts, regulatory easing and an “all-American” energy policy using “basically every kind of energy.”

Gingrich also spoke for a harder line on the Iranian regime and its nuclear ambitions, making a local, dramatic connection.

“Imagine what would happen if a nuclear weapon went off in Boston Harbor,” he said.

Monday, 3:00 p.m.: Need a break from all the “pious baloney,” as Gingrich said to Romney in yesterday’s debate? Today, Here & Now spoke with comedian and New Hampshire native Juston McKinney about his state.

“The first thing you see [when you cross the border] is a liquor store on every highway, and it’s the size of a mall with people having tailgating parties like at Gillette Stadium,” he said. “It’s a giant party. You go to the toll booth, pay your cover, and you’re in for the night.”

Monday, 2:45 p.m.: As the candidates know, and as recent polls have shown, there is still a sizeable portion of this state that is undecided about tomorrow’s electoral choice. I met one such voter ahead of a Gingrich event in Manchester today. He said that consistency matters to him.

“I’m interested in following the candidates to see how they stay with their core messages on core policies, and to see whether they start adjusting that,” said Bill Smagula, of Bedford. “As they get closer to the election, I think they start looking for votes in any way they can.”

Mitt Romney tours a metal fabricating facility in Hudson, N.H., Monday (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

Mitt Romney tours a metal fabricating facility in Hudson, N.H., Monday (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

Monday, 12:50 p.m.: On this final full day of Granite State campaigning before the polls open, the Republican candidates — including Rick Santorum, who returned from South Carolina — are all over. Take a look at this aggregate campaign-stop schedule, from Politico, to get an idea of their activity.

In his second event today, for example, Romney toured Gilchrist Metal Fabricating Co. Inc. (at right), in Hudson.

We’ll have reports from many of these events throughout the day.

Monday, 12:30 p.m.: Suffolk University has released its latest daily tracking poll. It found Romney dropping two points overnight, but still with a comfortable lead, at 33 percent. Paul is second, at 20 percent, followed by Huntsman in third, at 13 percent.

The latest poll echoes our morning analysis, in which we discussed Romney’s dropping lead and the real battle being for second place.

Monday, 9:45 a.m.: Paul had a packed event this morning, but it wasn’t packed with the right kind of people. From RadioBoston’s Meghna Chakrabarti:

Ron Paul kicked off the morning with breakfast at Moe Joe’s in Manchester. Or, he planned to until he entered the restaurant, surrounded by about 100 members of the media, and discovered that the packed restaurant was filled almost entirely with high school students from… Franklin, Mass.

The congressman quickly exited without making any remarks.

The students are in New Hampshire for a civics and government field trip. One student told me she shook Paul’s hand and “will never wash it again.”

An actual New Hampshire voter was spotted outside. Karen Heller had come to “fall in love with Ron Paul.” Heller remains undecided. “I really love Jon Huntsman,” she said, “but every year I feel like I’m throwing my vote away.”

Daily tracking polls have Mitt Romney's numbers down a few points, but he still has a commanding lead. (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

Daily tracking polls have Mitt Romney's numbers down a few points, but he still has a commanding lead. (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

Monday, 9:10 a.m.: We had some race analysis on Morning Edition, including Bob Oakes’ conversation with Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Noting daily tracking polls that have Paul and Huntsman rising somewhat on front-runner Romney, Scala said: “Romney has drifted down a bit from last week’s highs, but he still looks rather solid. His numbers … are really right in keeping with where they’ve been for a calendar year now. … What is going on is that undecided voters are slowly but surely making up their minds, and some of them are indeed moving towards Jon Huntsman.”

Bob also spoke with our political analysts, Dan Payne and Todd Domke. Expecting an easy Romney victory, they’re eyeing the victory margin.

“Let’s face it,” Todd said. “Mitt Romney has been campaigning in New Hampshire for about five years. It’s expected for him to win, it’s safe for him. If it fails to be a big victory, that will be significant, but the big story will be who comes in second and third place.”

Added Dan: “Romney needs to beat Mr. Second — whoever it happens to be — by 20 to 25 points in order to have bragging rights. If he does that, the nomination may not be in his pocket, but it’s going to be in the vicinity of his belt.”

Monday, 8:45 a.m.: NPR’s Steve Inskeep, who’s also here broadcasting from Manchester, paid a visit to a household in Derry, N.H., where he talked politics with six women over coffee, wine and doughnuts.

It’s an engaging conversation with women who range from students to retirees, as all six feel a connection to certain issues in this election, including jobs, spending and the deficit, and maintaining entitlement benefits.

The women also spoke specifically about the candidates. Steve tweeted their one-word associations to Romney earlier this morning:

We asked women voters what words they associate w/each [candidate]. Romney words: “smart,” “organized,” “leadership,” and “not trustworthy”

Monday, 7:15 a.m.: This morning, WBUR’s Bianca Vazquez Toness has a profile of Mont Vernon, N.H., and its new general store, a gathering place with diverse political views. An excerpt:

The residents of Mont Vernon may not agree on which candidates to support, but there is one thing everyone is happy about: having a place to gather, a place to buy a Coke, a place to talk politics.

Monday, 6:45 a.m.: Good morning from Manchester. Across town, WMUR-TV late last night released a new poll, which found Romney at 41 percent, Paul at 17 percent and then Huntsman and Santorum at 11 percent.

However, the poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday (so largely before the two debates in this state), found that only 44 percent of voters said they had made up their minds on a candidate.

Romney’s lead in this WMUR poll is greater than his lead in the latest Suffolk University daily tracking poll, which I mentioned last night.

Sunday, 10:00 p.m.: Our roving photographer, Dominick Reuter, has some campaign shots from the last two days. Click the image below to go to a slideshow.

Mitt Romney holds a campaign event in Rochester, N.H., Sunday (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

Mitt Romney holds a campaign event in Rochester, N.H., Sunday (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

8:45 p.m.: RadioBoston’s Meghna Chakrabarti checks in with two more nuggets from today’s campaign trail. During his Manchester stop, Gingrich weighed in on a local energy topic:

Gingrich suggested a European solution to the controversial Northern Pass project. The proposed chain of high voltage power lines that would bring electricity from Canada to Massachusetts has faced stiff opposition from a network of New Hampshire residents who face losing their property to government seizure through eminent domain.

“In principle it’s a good idea,” Gingrich said. Gingrich suggested burying the electricity lines as a way to obviate the need to seize property. “The lines could travel along already established government right-of-ways,” he said, adding such technology was already in use in Sweden and Norway.

She also said Huntsman’s gathering at Keene State College had a small media presence, with a Romney/Chris Christie event down the street, but the former Utah governor still packed the school’s student center with several hundred voters.

7:30 p.m.: Some scattered primary links from today:

  • The latest Suffolk University daily tracking poll has leader Romney down four points (35 percent), Paul at 20 percent and Huntsman rising to third, at 11 percent.
  • The New York Times’ Nate Silver counted heads at various New Hampshire campaign headquarters: “Headcounts at NH campaign HQ (we visited every one): Romney 110, Paul 40, Huntsman 35, Santorum 30, Newt 12, Perry 1.”
  • The state’s elections chief said he expects there’ll be 250,000 votes cast in Tuesday’s GOP primary, up from 241,000 in 2008.
  • The Washington Post fact-checks the two New Hampshire debates.

Occupy protesters in Manchester (Dan Mauzy/WBUR)

Occupy protesters in Manchester (Dan Mauzy/WBUR)

6:45 p.m.: A number of us from WBUR are up in Manchester, our special broadcast location over the next two days.

Late this afternoon, I walked north up Elm Street, a main thoroughfare in this city. Though it was largely quiet on a Sunday, it was impossible to miss that there’s an election just 36 hours away.

The lights were brightly on in the Romney and Gingrich headquarters I passed; Romney’s locale was more bustling. Next door to Romney HQ, I noted a furniture store, Cedar and Oak, with “Made In America” on its sign. The proprietor, who said he manufactures all the furniture in-house here, relayed some surprise that no candidates had used the sign in a photo-op.

A Huntsman rally on Manchester's Elm Street (Dan Mauzy/WBUR)

A Huntsman rally on Manchester's Elm Street (Dan Mauzy/WBUR)

Farther up, the lights were also brightly on in the broadcast tents of CBS News and the Associated Press. Across the street, an Occupy New Hampshire Primary encampment announced itself with a large sign.

A number of Paul supporters were out on Elm Street then as well. One backer had a boombox that played a Paul song to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

My colleague, RadioBoston’s Dan Mauzy, did an equivalent walk up Elm earlier in the day. With quick photos (at right), he noted the Occupy camp, too, and Huntsman supporters rallying.

6:00 p.m.: WBUR’s Bianca Vazquez Toness spent today surveying voters in Mont Vernon, a small town west of Manchester — and where we’ve previously spent some time.

One of the people she spoke to was Zoe Fimbel, who outlined Ron Paul’s appeal to her. “We want someone who truly loves America,” Fimbel said, “somebody who will lead us in a good way without burdening us with ridiculous taxes and stickin’ their nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Fimbel also expressed frustration at Paul’s supposed lack of “electability.”

“I really wish people wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to vote for Ron Paul because he can’t win.’ If everybody who said that would vote for him instead of their second best. He would have a great chance.”

4:45 p.m: More on those various campaign events today. RadioBoston’s Meghna Chakrabarti was with Gingrich at his restaurant town hall in Manchester, where he — after being introduced in Spanish by his daughter — spoke about immigration policy:

Gingrich has been attacked by fellow GOP candidates for his proposed immigration policy that would provide a path to residency for illegal immigrants who’ve been living in the U.S. for 20 years or more. … “The American people are not heartless,” Gingrich said. “We want to end people being forced to live in the shadows.”

The former speaker also addressed campaign finance, calling for solutions that would help “normal people get elected, not just millionaires” — perhaps a veiled shot at Romney, who, according to BuzzFeed, relayed last night that his father told him, “Mitt, never get involved in politics if you have to win an election to pay a mortgage.”

For his part, Romney had what WBUR’s Fred Thys said was “his biggest event of the campaign” at the Rochester Opera House. There, Thys said Romney’s warm reception allowed him to open up a little bit. He also, as Romney likes to do at such events, talked about what makes America great:

Those that wanted to build and create came here. It’s in our DNA. It’s kinda who we are. When I say DNA, I’m talking spiritually. It’s just part of the American spirit to love freedom and to cherish the capacity to set it on course in life. It’s what makes us the economic powerhouse we are.

Here’s a shot of that Romney event in Rochester:

Mitt Romney at an event Sunday in Rochester, N.H. (Luke Boelitz for WBUR)

Mitt Romney at an event Sunday in Rochester, N.H. (Luke Boelitz for WBUR)

1:50 p.m.: With the back-to-back debates behind them, the candidates are again on the campaign trail today.

Romney held the first of two events today at Rochester’s Opera House, where he spoke of his upbringing and his vision for the country. Of note, according to WBUR’s Fred Thys, was this line from Romney: “There were a couple of times when I wondered whether I would get a pink slip.”

This hour, Gingrich is holding a town hall at Don Quijote, a Mexican restaurant in Manchester, while Huntsman is at a coffeeshop in Hampstead, where WBUR’s Monica Brady-Myerov took this photo of him standing on the shop’s counter while saying he’s the underdog who is surging:

Jon Huntsman at a Hampstead coffeeshop Sunday (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

Jon Huntsman at a Hampstead coffeeshop Sunday (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

Following this morning’s debate, both Perry and Santorum departed for South Carolina, the next state on the primary schedule.

It's been a debate-heavy primary campaign, the latest of which was Sunday morning, in Concord, N.H. (AP)

It's been a debate-heavy primary campaign, the latest of which was Sunday morning, in Concord, N.H. (AP)

11:15 a.m.: In part due to some prodding questions, this morning’s debate was more combative than last night’s, with Romney the focus of many critiques. Here’s the lede of the AP recap:

Front-runner Mitt Romney came under sharp criticism from rival Republican presidential hopefuls during a Sunday morning faceoff just hours after he largely brushed aside their criticism in the opening round of back-to-back debates just days before the New Hampshire primary.

Sunday, 8:30 a.m.: So, ready for another debate? The NBC News/Facebook debate (online here) is just 30 minutes away.

In his recap of last night’s tussle, NPR’s Ron Elving summarized what most debate-watchers saw: the curious lack of engagement by the five challengers on front-runner Romney. Here’s his opening:

Once more, the great media consensus was confounded. Saturday night’s debate at St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, N.H., produced another battle among half a dozen presidential contenders, much like a dozen before it. Front-runner Mitt Romney was neither knocked out nor even knocked down. He was scarcely even knocked around.

Once again, the evening ended with the bruises pretty equally distributed among the contestants. And with the New Hampshire primary bearing down on Tuesday, virtually no time remains for Romney’s rivals to bring him down.

It was not supposed to be like this. Not this time. Since the Iowa caucuses earlier in the week, every reporter, commentator and kibitzer paying attention to the Republican presidential decathlon predicted Romney’s five remaining rivals would gang tackle him at St. Anselm’s. Myself included.

But it didn’t happen.

In his debrief just now on Morning Edition, WBUR’s Bob Oakes noted that for a lot of this back-and-forth between challengers, Romney just stood there with his hands in his pockets. Will this morning be more of the same?

11:59 p.m.: Here’s how the AP opens its debate recap:

Mitt Romney brushed aside rivals’ criticism Saturday night in the opening round of a weekend debate doubleheader that left his Republican presidential campaign challengers squabbling among themselves and unable to knock the front-runner off stride.

Three days before the first in-the-nation New Hampshire primary, Romney largely ignored his fellow Republicans and turned instead on President Obama.

9:05 p.m.: The debate is under way. Head to Twitter (#NHdebate, or @WBUR) for second-screen updates.

Will Newt Gingrich continue his attacks on Mitt Romney in tonight's debate? (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

Will Newt Gingrich continue his attacks on Mitt Romney in tonight's debate? (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

6:00 p.m.: Three hours until tonight’s debate, The New York Times’ David Leonhardt succinctly sets it up:

The big q tonight: Do the non-Romneys take on the frontrunner or continue to battle each other, effectively helping him?

Most political watchers expect Romney’s rivals to pile on him in the debate. Karen Anderson, of WBZ-TV, got some time with our former governor and asked him about that.

Gov Romney on rivals teaming up tonight: “I have got broad shoulders. If I can’t handle this, how would I ever handle President Obama”

The Washington Post has five things to watch for tonight. Same with the Times and ABC News.

5:45 p.m.: An NPR story out earlier today calls New Hampshire the “land of diversity,” though it “doesn’t mean race or ethnicity.”

“In the district that I’ve represented now for 34 years, out of the 263,000 people, about a third are Democrats, a third Republicans, and the other third are independents,” said politician Ray Burton.

5:15 p.m.: Romney has long been the front-runner in New Hampshire, but ahead of tonight’s debate, what do the latest polls say?

Yesterday, a NBC News/Marist poll found Romney (42 percent) with a 20-point lead over Paul (22 percent), followed by Santorum (13 percent), and then Gingrich and Huntsman (9 percent each).

The latest WMUR/UNH poll (PDF), also out yesterday, had it: Romney (44 percent), Paul (20 percent), Gingrich (8 percent), Santorum (8 percent) and Huntsman (7 percent). However, as Slate’s Dave Weigel noted, the post-Iowa portion of the poll had Santorum rising a few points.

Lastly, today’s Suffolk University daily tracking poll found it: Romney (43 percent), Paul (17 percent), Gingrich (10 percent), and then Santorum and Huntsman (9 percent each).

Rick Santorum at a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., Friday (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

Rick Santorum at a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., Friday (Dominick Reuter for WBUR)

3:30 p.m.: WBUR’s Bianca Vazquez Toness was with Santorum at one of his four New Hampshire campaign events today, where he made some news by saying that college isn’t for everyone:

I was so outraged at the president of the United States standing up and saying, “Every child in America should go to college.” Well, who are you? Who are you to say that every child in America go? I mean, the hubris of this president to think that he knows what’s best for you. I have seven kids. Maybe they’ll all go to college. But if one of my kids wants to go and be an auto mechanic, good for him. That’s a good-paying job. Use your hands, use your mind.

This is the kind of snobbery that we see from those who think they know how to run our lives.

3:15 p.m.: Here are the details on those two New Hampshire debates:

WMUR-TV/ABC News (WCVB-TV in Boston) debate:

  • When: 9-11 p.m. tonight
  • Where: St. Anselm College in Manchester
  • Who: Huntsman, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Romney, Santorum

WMUR will also live-stream the debate. Romney and Santorum are expected to be positioned at the center of the stage.

NBC News’ “Meet The Press”/Facebook debate:

  • When: 9-11 a.m. tomorrow
  • Where: Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord
  • Who: Huntsman, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Romney, Santorum

Saturday, 3 p.m.: With more than 60 hours until polls open, all eyes are on New Hampshire and the Republican candidates, who are crisscrossing the state with campaign events on this unseasonably warm day.

Today’s highlight is undoubtedly the two-hour, nationally televised debate at St. Anselm College. (Twelve hours later, there’s another nationally televised debate, from Concord.)

Ahead of tonight’s debate, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum have the most campaign events in the state, with four each. Huntsman, who skipped the Iowa caucuses to campaign in New Hampshire, is counting on a strong performance Tuesday. The late-rising Santorum is looking to build on his Hawkeye State momentum, but he’s also going to spend tomorrow afternoon in South Carolina, the next state on the primary calendar.

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  • Rick Wetzel

    Huntsman needs to go home after making a comment about Iowans ” New Hampshire picks presidents, Iowa picks corn” Are these the words of a uniter or a divider. He sounds more like Obama than a conservative republican. After he losoes , I hope he finds it hard to swallow every time he eats. Oh yeah we raise, chickens,turkeys,Dairy products,eggs, pigs and beef also .
    Bon Apetit ” Oh yeah fry that in your Iowa soybean oil!!!!!!!!!!!

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