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N.H. Voters Check Out Santorum, Romney Ahead Of Primary

The Republican presidential candidates are criss-crossing New Hampshire Saturday, making campaign appearances before Tuesday's primary.

Mitt Romney is the front-runner in New Hampshire, and Rick Santorum is the candidate whose prospects are improving the most quickly in the polls. A Suffolk University tracking poll shows 40 percent of likely voters in the Republican primary intend to vote for Romney, but Santorum has shot up by eight points in just four days. You could sense Santorum's surge Friday afternoon, at a restaurant in a working-class section on the east side of Manchester.

In one way, it was like the final weekend of Sen. Scott Brown's victorious campaign for the U.S. Senate two years ago: the crowd was so big they had to move the event to the parking lot. Santorum was taken aback by the location, the size of the crowd, a few hecklers and several signs held by Occupy New Hampshire protesters.

"This is a great venue," Santorum said, laughing and prompting laughter from the crowd. "It's like a Fellini movie here."

He had to contend with the hecklers throughout the event. But he got support from he crowd.

"I certainly respect you for putting up with all of this," one man told Santorum.

"Look," Santorum replied, "I come from Southwestern Pennsylvania. I represented a district that had more steel workers in it than any district in America. This is cake."

In one way, this event was not like the final weekend of Brown's campaign because the crowds for Brown knew they were going to vote for him. At the Santorum event, some people were still checking him out.

Steven Knight is one such voter. He's a social moderate and fiscal conservative who voted for President Obama but doesn't think he's been effective.

"I'm an independent," Knight said. "I'm just trying to take a look at everybody. I don't know that I'm going to vote for Mr. Santorum, but I just want to see what he has to say."

Knight said he's leaning toward Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Santorum is a Catholic conservative who successfully appealed to Christian fundamendalists and finished a mere eight points behind Romney in Iowa.

But Santorum was not the only one drawing Christian conservatives Fridaya night. An hour north, at a spaghetti dinner at a private school in Tilton, Jeff Savary was among the 400 people who had come to hear Romney.

"Most of the people that I associate with are very conservative Christians," Savary said, "so I think a lot of them tend to vote for somebody like Santorum, but given the state of the economy and Mitt Romney's record in the private sector, his ability to turn things around, they're definitely considering him; they're not jumping full on board for Santorum right away."

Romney had to address the improving economy. December brought promising jobs numbers for Obama: in December, the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent and employers added 200,000 new jobs.

"I'm glad it's doing a little better now," Romney said of the economy. "I'm sure the president will want to take credit for it. Guess what? He doesn't deserve it."

Like at Santorum's event, people were there to kick the tires.

"I know you're a multimillionaire," said voter Donna Becotte. "I read this morning you have four houses. Would you be willing to give up some of that so that we middle Americans can get some tax cuts?"

"That's an idea," Romney replied. "OK. That's right. Let's see. Well, I don't have four houses, that's No. 1. Although it's a good idea. Thank you for the idea."

Romney has two houses and a condo. He told Becotte that the best way he could help middle-class Americans is to cut taxes.

"I don't really think he answered my question," Becotte said afterwards.

Becotte said after Romney's performance, she's leaning toward Obama.

Not every question goes Romney's way. But his campaign aides say New Hampshire voters want to see their candidates fighting for every vote. And despite the surge by Santorum, Romney holds a comfortable lead.

This program aired on January 7, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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