Voters, candidates gearing up for Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary

The Takeaway

Tuesday brings the second contest of the Republican presidential nominating competition.

Voters in New Hampshire will have their chance to have a say in who will represent the Republicans in their effort  to unseat President Barack Obama.

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney has enjoyed a virtually insurmountable lead in the polls in New Hampshire for months. But it’s also put a giant target on his back — which was apparent in the two debates held over the weekend. Romney’s lead has narrowed some, but anything other than a large victory by Romney would be viewed as a catastrophe by many political experts.

Anna Sale, a reporter for WNYC’s politics website It’s A Free Country, said there’s a palpable lack of excitement about all of the candidates in New Hampshire.

“It doesn’t look like Mitt Romney’s in danger of losing New Hampshire, but he wants to have an absolutely strong finish here where he becomes the presumptive nominee, where it looks like South Carolina and Florida he’s going to have them wrapped up,” Sale said.

Sale said Romney’s really not creating enthusiasm in his rallies, though some of his surrogates are. In general, though, the message has been to make sure you get out and vote, and tell you friends and neighbors to do the same, Sale said.

But with Ron Paul gaining ground and cutting Romney’s lead to its narrowest point in months, coupled with voter apathy as well as Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all sniping at Romney’s heels as well, it could be close.

“It could be close and Mitt Romney does not want that. Mitt Romney wants a big win in New Hampshire. This is his backyard from Massachusetts. If it’s not a big win, that’s not how he wants to go into South Carolina,” Sale said.

If Romney wins big in New Hampshire, coupled with his victory in Iowa and a lead in South Carolina, it will be difficult to argue that someone else has the chance to be the nominee, Sale said.

Both Republicans and independent voters can vote in the Republican primary. 

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