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MANCHESTER, N.H.—Mitt Romney's advisers insisted coming into New Hampshire that they weren't caught up in the debate over how big of a win the former Massachusetts governor had to score here.
But as polls closed tonight, his staff and supporters couldn't resist obsessing over every bit of information about poll returns. Awaiting Romney's arrival on stage here at Southern New Hampshire University, they passed around BlackBerrys to scroll through precinct data rolling in, anxious to see how big their boss's margin of error was in key parts of the state.
"He's winning Manchester BIG TIME," one supporter announced, scrolling through the results on his iPhone, as a Romney aide rushed over to look over his shoulder. "Rochester! Look at that," the supporter said, speaking of a northern New Hampshire town where Romney campaigned this weekend, and where the tea party movement has been popular. "We've got it!"
A few minutes later, Romney took the stage. Rading from teleprompters, delivered the speech he had likely hoped to deliver in Iowa last week. As he does in his stump speech, Romney focused almost exclusively on President Obama, calling him a "disappointing president" who has "failed" the country.
But in a preview of his message heading into what is expected to be a tough fight in South Carolina, he accused unnamed Republican rivals of working in tandem with Obama to attack his resume as a venture capitalist at Bain Capital.
"President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him," Romney said, reading from the teleprompter. "This is such a mistake for our Party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success."
In the back of the room, Romney's top aides carefully monitored their boss's remarks, offering smiles to supporters who came up to offer hearty handshakes of congratulations. Four years after a disappointing loss in the state, they seemed happy—but not too happy—about their boss's win, perhaps knowing that the next 10 days could be the most brutal of the Republican primary.
Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's senior adviser, acknowledged the onslaught of attacks and scrutiny coming their way—including a brutal half-hour long ad being launched by a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich that accuses Romney of killing jobs during his tenure at Bain.
He declined to explain how the Romney campaign will play defense in South Carolina, telling Yahoo News he didn't want to get into a discussion of specific strategy.
"What I will say," he said, matter of factly, "is that we are ready."
-- Holly Bailey, 9:50 p.m. ET
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Coming off a bottom-tier finish Tuesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged his supporters to call everyone they knew in South Carolina and Florida, which will hold primaries later this month.
"I'm asking each of you not to slow down," Gingrich told supporters who gathered for an election-night party at the Radisson hotel in downtown Manchester. "For the next couple days, make a list of every person you know in South Carolina and every person you know in Florida."
Gingrich, who at the time of this writing was in a tight race with Rick Santorum for fourth place in the state, spoke at the same time Santorum gave his across town. On the room's jumboscreen, Santorum's address played silently behind him. A tech person sprinted to the back of the room.
"Get that off! Kill it! Turn it off!" he said in an urgent whisper. They switched the channel to a feed of Gingrich's speech.
Gingrich urged his supporters to have faith, despite disappointing showing in the early states.
"This is step two in a long process," Gingrich said. "We're going to take to South Carolina tonight and pick up tomorrow morning."
The crowd in the room cleared out quickly after Gingrich left.
-- Chris Moody, 10:34 p.m. ET
Chanting "President Paul" and "End the Fed," Ron Paul supporters cheered for second place at the candidate's wrap event on Tuesday. At least two party-goers had on tri-cornered hats.
-- Laura Davis, 10:30 p.m. ET
We are updating this page throughout primary day in New Hampshire with scenes, photographs, observations and insights from the six Yahoo News reporters on the campaign trail in the state. Scroll down for more.
MANCHESTER, N.H.-- Earlier this evening, Jon Huntsman's staff warned the press that it would be a tight squeeze tonight here at the candidate's watch party. But members of the public arriving at the Black Brimmer hadn't been clued in.
Four Syracuse University journalism students told Yahoo News they arrived at 7 p.m. ET for the watch party and staff told them they were not permitted to enter. ""They told us they were only letting in national news media," they said. "They told us to come back at 8:30."
When they finally got in, they were greeted by a totally packed room where most people were unable to move or get to the bar without great difficulty.
Tim Miller, a Hunstman spokesman, tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the venue for tonight's party had been booked four days ago, when Huntsman was fifth in the polls. "Y'all are gonna be packed in tight," he wrote, suggesting that RSVP's had significantly increased.
Guests were struggling by 8 p.m. "Are you guys waiting for the bar? Because we've been here for a while," one woman said loudly into the throng of people in front of her.
The press situation was equally congested, with the upstairs filing row of about 15 seats filled an hour before the venue technically opened to press at 6 p.m.
"This is not where we file, is it?" wondered several reporters, all working without wireless access and few places to sit.
-- Rachel Rose Hartman, 8:47 p.m. ET
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Totally serious presidential candidate Vermin Supreme stopped by the Manchester Radisson hotel Tuesday night. Wearing his trademark plastic boot as a hat with a Hulk fist at his waste clutching an American flag, Mr. Supreme made the case for his candidacy in an interview with Yahoo News. He also shared his fine Howard Dean impression.
Read more about Vermin Supreme here. And a quick warning about the video: It gets wonderfully weird.
-- Chris Moody, 7:35 p.m. ET
At some point, there's not much more you can do on Election Day. Knowing this, Mitt Romney spent part of the primary day in New Hampshire relaxing at the movies. ABC News has the scoop:
A source at Cinemagic Movies in Hooksett, N.H. tells ABC News that Mitt Romney is currently watching Mission Impossible in IMAX.
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul confirmed that the former Massachusetts governor, who visited polling places earlier Tuesday morning, was at the theater.
And Romney's son Tagg,tweeted a photo of Romney, his wife, Ann, and several of their grandchildren at the theater. Some members of the family apparently went to see "The Muppets" movie.
-- Chris Moody, 7:05 p.m. ET
GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — In the 2008 Republican primary, Ron Paul picked up only 260 votes (7 percent) in this gritty town abutting Manchester. But this afternoon, Paul swept my unscientific exit poll conducted at the Bartlett Elementary School. The results from successfully interviewing roughly half the Ward 5 voters during a one-hour period: Paul 16, Mitt Romney 9, Jon Huntsman 7, Rick Santorum 4. As for Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, nada.
Most of the Paul voters take him seriously as a would-be president, instead of viewing him as a vehicle for protest. Roger Bergerof, a small businessman, woke up Tuesday morning convinced that he would go with Huntsman. But the more Bergerof (who started out as a Romney backer) thought about it, the more tempted he was by Paul's low-tax policies. Gerard Potvin, a sheet-metal worker, said about his candidate, "Everybody says that Paul's a dangerous man. But maybe, in these times, we need a dangerous man."
Romney narrowly carried Goffstown with 36 percent of the vote in 2008. But it was hard to pick up a sense of grassroots enthusiasm for the GOP front-runner. The only volunteers at Bartlett School—Douglas Landers, a student volunteer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, along with locals Leah (a laid-off teacher) and Joe (a plumbing and heating specialist) Wolczko—were, not surprisingly, for Paul. They said that the only other activity came from two Huntsman volunteers there for an hour in the morning.
The anguish of undecided voters was palpable. Diane Cote, who works in a light-bulb factory, told me on the way into the polling place that she had no idea which candidate she would choose. About all that she knew was that she had ruled out Paul. Ten minutes later she emerged from the school with the news that she had opted for Santorum "because of his values and his honesty."
Goffstown itself is a good barometer of the down-market Republican vote. But there are many reasons why the results from this impromptu exit poll could be unreliable from the size of the sample (after 36 voters I got cold) to the reality that Paul voters, because of their enthusiasm, are more likely to stop to answer questions from a pesky reporter. But no matter how you spin it, it is hard to see any good news for Gingrich in the failure of any voter I interviewed to support him.
-- Walter Shapiro, 5:45 p.m. E.T.
MERRIMACK, N.H.-- "Give a hoot for Newt!" That was Larry Joyce's mantra on Tuesday, as he stood outside waiting for Gingrich to arrive at a polling place here. About 50 supporters carrying "Newt 2012" signs had gathered near the school, though the crowd was dotted with a few Ron Paul insurgents and one lonely Huntsman supporter, who carried a red sign that stood out among a sea of blue.
But Joyce didn't get much of a reaction, despite his doggedness. No one gave a hoot.
Donning a bright orange beanie, Joyce traveled the whole way from Chicago to do anything he could to help the campaign. And he had plenty of chances to spread his word on Tuesday, because Gingrich was running late.
When the candidate's entourage of black SUV's pulled up into the parking lot about a half hour behind schedule, there was, finally, much hooting.
Both jacketless in the chill, Gingrich and his wife, Callista, stepped out of the vehicle and worked through the small hooting group of supporters. Gingrich fielded questions about his expectations for the night, saying he hoped to come in third in New Hampshire, but that he was looking forward to the next race in South Carolina.
After some chatting, the two hopped in their SUV and sped to the next stop.
The departure prompted Joyce to re-visit his requests for hoots.
"Give a hoot for Newt!" he said to a passing woman.
"Hoot!" she said.
"Hurray!" Joyce shouted.
-- Chris Moody, 4:45 p.m. ET
MANCHESTER, N.H.--The city police set out wooden sawhorses and placed two policemen on horseback at a polling location at Webster School to help control the crowds of supporters and press gathered to see several candidates, including Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul, stop by. (Read Holly Bailey's report below for details on the hullabaloo, including the journalists "who descended on this affluent neighborhood just north of downtown like a swarm of ants that's come upon a discarded piece of fruit.")
Ashley Forcier and Marka Defina of Manchester told Yahoo News that their polling location was right around the corner, and that no reporters or candidates were present. "There's no one there," Forcier, a teacher, said.
"I like to watch them on the news more than I like to be here," she said of the candidates as she snapped pictures of the crowd surrounding Huntsman. "But we're here just to say we came."
-- Rachel Rose Hartman, 3:42 p.m. ET
Huntsman on New Hampshire results so far
MANCHESTER, N.H.-- Jon Huntsman stopped briefly Tuesday morning to speak with the reporters who were lining the entrance to the polling location here at Webster School.
--Rachel Rose Hartman, 2:56 p.m. ET
New Hampshire campaigners occupy intersections—but does sign-waving work?
MANCHESTER, N.H.--During lunchtime, five young men stood at the busy intersection of Queen City Avenue and Elm Street waving Ron Paul signs to motivate passing motorists. A few blocks away at the corner of Elm and Lake Avenue, two women held aloft Newt 2012 signs. This is the New Hampshire primary tradition of visibilities or, as they are sometimes called, "vizz." These moments of genuine volunteer enthusiasm (it gets cold on street corners in January) have a symbolic link to the torchlight parades of 19th century politics. But in all my New Hampshire primaries (this one is my ninth), I have never seen a shred of evidence that even one vote has been swayed by these street-corner demonstrations.
Every time I see some vizz, I recall two Joe Lieberman volunteers, on an Arctic afternoon in Concord before the 2004 primary, who were holding up a two-part sign that read, "JOE-MENTUM." Unfortunately, after a while, "JOE" had to go inside to get warm, leaving on the corner his lonely but determined partner jubilantly waving his banner, "MENTUM."
Lieberman finished fifth in the primary. Blame it on his "MENTUM."
—Walter Shapiro, 2:23 p.m. ET
Eager New Hampshire reporters, voters, cause chaos at Manchester polling spot
MANCHESTER, N.H.--Circus may be too conservative of a word to describe the scene outside Webster School, a polling location where most of the Republican candidates have been making appearances today.
Hundreds of sign-waving supporters of Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul have been stationed outside of the school since early this morning, chanting in favor of their preferred candidate. But they have been strongly outnumbered by members of the news media, who descended on this affluent neighborhood just north of downtown like a swarm of ants that's come upon a discarded piece of fruit.
Most of the journalists on the scene had no idea had which candidates were showing up; they just parked illegally and frantically jumped out of their cars to capture something, anything with their cameras. And there was much to document.
A woman dressed like Paul Revere toted a sign featuring a cartoon of Ron Paul dressed in scrubs, holding a baby wrapped in an American flag. President Obama's supporters waved signs taunting Mitt Romney supporters. On the street, a woman with big blond hair slowly drove by in a convertible orange Porsche, the top down on this 36-degree day, passing a Mustang convertible with two people dressed up like pigs standing in the back seat dancing to techno music.
"Sit down!" a cop yelled, and they slowly complied, without losing beat with the music.
On the street, a truck hauling a giant sign advertising Rick Santorum's candidacy slowly circled the block, the truck's driver buttering up police officers by giving them granola bars.
Across the street, neighbors looked on in amazement, as a Japanese television reporter stood in the middle of the oncoming traffic to do an on-camera stand-up shot, a Honda headed straight for him.
"Get out of the street!" a police officer bellowed, his yells ignored by the crew. "GET OUT OF THE STREET!"
The reporter kept talking, his Japanese-language report peppered with the occasional mention of "New Hampshire." As the cop began to walk toward him, the crew finally moved--only to relocate into a driveway where a driver was trying to pull out. She honked. They ignored her.
When Jon Huntsman pulled up around noon, reporters jumped barracades to surround his car, and camera men climbed on the roof of his SUV to get their shots.
Down the block, the Santorum supporters who had no doubt plotted to interrupt Huntsman's photo op had run into trouble, their truck stalled at the end of the street with the hood up. Chatting on a cell phone, the driver wore a sad look as he looked at his stalled engine and then onto the crowd of cameras engulfing Huntsman down the street.
Nearby, a television reporter surveyed the scene laughed with glee, chatting with a young producer.
"This is why I told you Iowa was shit!" he declared. "New Hampshire is where it's at!"
—Holly Bailey, 1:53 p.m. ET
Voters thronged with pamphlets, pollsters—and a PTA bake sale
MANCHESTER, N.H.--"Gotta love New Hampshire! God bless it!," a man said, handing in his ballot on Tuesday morning after voting in the nation's first primary of 2012.
Voters going to the polls in the Granite State were greeted outside by candidates' supporters holding up campaign signs (in at least one case, outside a Catholic school, the sign did not bear a candidate's name but instead a graphic anti-abortion image) and by reporters hailing from as far as away as England and Sweden. At one polling station there was a PTA bake sale, and a woman presented voters as they departed with a "Ballot on America's Future," a campaign associated with Occupy New Hampshire that asks people questions like what they think the biggest problem facing America today is.
Denis Carrier, 45, who was voting in Manchester, said he didn't make up his mind to vote for Ron Paul until he arrived at the polling station.
"He was the only one represented here," Carrier said, referring to the lone Paul supporter holding a sign outside the McDonough School. "I usually make up my mind at the poll."
—Laura E. Davis, 1:10 p.m. ET
This property in Manchester, N.H., had all its bases covered Tuesday morning.
—Rachel Rose Hartman, 11:44 a.m. ET
One big contingent at the New Hampshire primary: Obama voters
MANCHESTER, N.H.--Shortly before 10 a.m. this morning, the loudest contingent of backers for any candidate at the polling place at Webster Elementary School in Ward 1 were the young voters amassed for Barack Obama. In theory, it was an impressive display by the Obama campaign, which sees the Republican presidential race as a target for continual counter-programming. But, in reality, the pro-Obama script might need a little revision.
The Obama contingent kept enthusiastically chanting, "Four More Years. Four More Years." They were probably too young to remember that was Richard Nixon's slogan during his brass-knuckle 1972 reelection campaign. But older New Hampshirites, who are the sort most likely to be voting mid-morning, probably remember Watergate vividly. Of course, it could have been worse; the Obama boosters could have been shouting, "Nixon's The One."
—Walter Shapiro, 11:39 a.m. ET
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