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In N.H., Voters See Romney As The Nominee03:55
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Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at VFW Post 8641 in Merrimack, N.H., Friday. (AP)
Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at VFW Post 8641 in Merrimack, N.H., Friday. (AP)

The Iowa caucuses are just three days away, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was in New Hampshire Saturday morning. He's leading in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire now. Even though Romney is far ahead of his competition in New Hampshire, he is not taking the state for granted.

Many in the crowd of about 120 people who turned out for a spaghetti dinner in the VFW hall in Merrimack appeared confident that Romney would win New Hampshire. Many like Carol Matsis are already looking forward to the general election.

"What brought me here tonight is to see the Republican nominee," Matsis said. "He ought to be. He ought to be. We need a businessman. The economy is in the tank. We have a president that has shown no leadership and is leading us towards socialism, so we need somebody that is going to bring us back to that American dream."

Even Romney got caught up in the sense of inevitability.

"I look forward to doing a few things in a big hurry if I'm able to get this job, and I think I will," Romney told the crowd. "If I get this job," he corrected himself, curbing his enthusiasm to applause and laughter.

Sometimes in campaigns, politicians reveal human vulnerabilities. That happened as Romney commented on how he misses his parents during the holidays.

"At a time like this, I think about my parents, and I'm sure during the holidays, you think about your parents as well. My mom and dad were extraordinary people, and they both left this life and moved on, and..." he paused as someone in the audience urged him not to cry. It was a reference to the fact that earlier in the day, in Iowa, Romney's rival Newt Gingrich wept as he remembered his mother.

"I won't cry, no, no, I won't, but I do, I do, nothing to be ashamed of in that regard," Romney said.

Back on message, Romney told the crowd that there seem to be two sides to the American political mind.

"One side is to say: 'What's in it for me?' " Romney said. "That's not our best part. Some politicians over the years have campaigned on the basis of more and more promises, hoping that if they promise enough that you'll vote for them, and if you're looking for someone that will promise a lot of free stuff, that's not me."

It's a message that won over 47-year-old Air Force reservist Jeff Manning, about to head to Afghanistan for his third tour. Manning lives behind the VFW and this was his first time hearing a candidate in person.

"I came into it with a really open mind," Manning said. "I really hadn't settled on anyone, but I liked what the governor had to say tonight a lot."

Manning says he'll probably vote for Romney.

"I liked the 'Here in America, you can make it,' " Manning said. "Don't look for a handout."

Romney seems to have won New Hampshire over. He is in the lead in New Hampshire polls, but four years ago, he was also in the lead and found himself in second place to John McCain by the time voters made their final decisions. And for the first time in New Hampshire, Romney is being attacked in television ads. This weekend, a Super PAC supporting former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is airing an ad that calls Romney a chameleon.

So even though Iowa voters are caucusing in three days, Romney is making sure his New Hampshire voters stay won over.

This program aired on December 31, 2011.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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