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Pawlenty, Christie Help Romney Campaign In N.H.


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep in Manchester, New Hampshire.


And I'm David Greene in Washington.

It's not easy for a presidential candidate to win both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Barack Obama didn't do it four years ago, nor did John McCain. But this year, Mitt Romney is getting closer to pulling it off.

INSKEEP: After barely winning Iowa, the Republican candidate is maintaining a double-digit lead here in New Hampshire. Over the weekend, in debates and new campaign events, Romney's opponents have sharpened their attacks, questioning his conservative credentials and his honesty. Romney though kept campaigning as if he's already looking to the general election.

Here's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The final weekend before Tuesday's first in the nation primary saw Romney hosting big events. There was a rally at opera house in Rochester. He took the stage with his wife, Ann, three of his five sons, and a collection of grandkids. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte spoke, as did former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the race this summer.

Romney leveled his usual charge that President Obama is out of touch with American values and beliefs.


MITT ROMNEY: I look at these last three years and I just shake my head. I don't think the president gets it.

GONYEA: That, by the way, is something other presidential candidates have said about Romney, who always answers by highlighting his business experience. But yesterday, he added a line about the anxiety and fears he has known.

ROMNEY: And I've learned what its like to sign the front of a paycheck, not just the back of a paycheck; and to know how frightening it is to see whether you can make payroll at the end of the week. I mean these are experiences that many of you know. I know what it's like to worry whether you're going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered if I was going to get a pink slip. And I care very deeply about the American people.

GONYEA: Romney's rivals have also raised the question about the front-runner's authenticity. Newt Gingrich yesterday called Romney's message, quote, "pious baloney." Romney in turn campaigned in Exeter last night with a man whom Republicans consider authentic to his core, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: When America is watching on Tuesday night, you tell them we've seen presidential candidates come and go in this state and we know a president when we see one. And he is right here.


GONYEA: Romney supporter Chris Trojan, a middle school teacher, was at the event in Rochester. She says it's OK if the attacks on Romney have increased in recent days.

CHRIS TROJAN: That's OK. It's good for him.

GONYEA: How so? What do you mean?

TROJAN: Well, because it's, you know, when he wins the primaries then he's going to have to go up against Obama, which will be tough but I think he's ready.

GONYEA: And Obama is certainly going to beat up on him.

TROJAN: Yeah. I think we're going to beat up on Obama, too. It's the nature of the beast.

GONYEA: Her comments show that Romney supporters are also looking ahead to the general election. The other candidates say not so fast, predicting a closer than expected finish in New Hampshire and troubles for Romney down the road, as the contest moves to South Carolina.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Manchester. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.