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Taking Nothing For Granted, Romney Launches N.H. Bus Tour

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets voters after his campaign speech in Bedford, N.H. on Dec. 20.
Elise Amendola
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets voters after his campaign speech in Bedford, N.H. on Dec. 20.

All eyes are on Iowa this week, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is far away — on a campaign bus tour in must-win New Hampshire.

As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on Wednesday's Morning Edition, somehow there are still New Hampshire voters who remain undecided about Romney — despite the fact that he's practically camped out in their living rooms for the last four years.

At a town hall meeting in Bedford, N.H. Tuesday night, a jeans-clad Romney addressed a capacity crowd, Shapiro reports. Though ads from a Romney-backed Super PAC called Restore Our Future have been hammering his GOP opponents, the candidate himself struck a magnanimous tone, Shapiro reports:

"There are a lot of good people running for president on our side of the aisle. And I think any one of them would be better than the current president. I just think I'm in the best position to post up against a president who's had no experience in the private sector and doesn't know how the economy works. I do," Romney said.

New Hampshire is Romney's fire wall, as the New York Times' Ross Douthat points out in a column outlining the candidate's various paths to victory. Pollsthere do show him with a commanding lead.

But that's not something he can take for granted, political scientist Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire told Shapiro.

"Because he's from a neighboring state, because he finished here in second place in 2008, he's been the prohibitive front-runner in New Hampshire and if he does not meet the expectations of the national press — which is, to win fairly convincingly here — it would be as good as a loss. And that would make it almost impossible for him to win the nomination," Smith said.

Smith also noted that Romney cannot assume that these voters are in the bag.

"Voters in New Hampshire don't make up their minds who they're going to vote for until the very end of the campaign. In 2008 we saw that on both the Republican and Democratic sides that half the voters had not made up their minds two days before the election. So candidates cannot take it for granted that they're going to win, even if you have a convincing lead in the polls," Smith told Shapiro.

One recent pollfrom Suffolk University shows that while 11 percent of GOP primary voters say they're now undecided, 51 percent admit they could change their minds before voting on Jan. 10.

That's a lesson Romney seems to have learned from 2008, when he watched a big lead in New Hampshire fizzle, the Times reports: he's embarking on a three-day, nine-town bus tour on Wednesday.

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Debra Rosenberg