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Marathon man running on a national strategy

January 08, 2008|Joe Mathews

MANCHESTER, N.H. — No letup in the last hours

After Iowa, change is in the air in New Hampshire. In the Democratic primary, Barack Obama's emphasis on change has suddenly made him the candidate to beat. On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee has a tall order in replicating his win, but this has forced Mitt Romney to alter his tactics and helped revive John McCain's chances. A look at the front-runners on their last full day of campaigning in New Hampshire:



On sunday afternoon, with the primary campaign here ramping up, Mike Huckabee took part of the afternoon off. He is a member of a charity team training for April's Boston Marathon, and needed to get in a 14-mile run.

In the days since his victory in Thursday night's Iowa caucuses, Huckabee's campaign is focusing more on the contests after New Hampshire. The Republican candidate has said he would be content with a third- or fourth-place finish here, where his religious-themed campaign has found few of the evangelicals who propelled him to victory in Iowa.

He has reduced his daily schedule -- on some days he had just one public event. He has yet to hold a town hall or take a question from the public. Available to the media several times a day in Iowa, he has held a single news conference in New Hampshire.

Here, in the home of retail politics, Huckabee's campaign has instead gone national. He has spoken more to voters across the country, with as many as half a dozen national television appearances a day. He talks often of his prospects in big states such as Florida (which votes Jan. 29) and California, one of 23 states holding primaries or caucuses Feb. 5.

He spends much of the rest of his days either running or in meetings behind closed doors.

Huckabee is trying to turn his seat-of-the-pants campaign into a real organization. Staffers are being hired. Money is being frantically raised. The campaign has set a goal of raising $1 million over the Internet by Thursday. As of early Monday, it was about $400,000 short.

On the trail, Huckabee draws big crowds -- more than 600 packed a school gym Sunday, and so many folks came to a breakfast appearance in Mason on Monday that the former Arkansas governor had to put on two events so the more than 500 people could all see him.

But he makes fewer jokes and fewer biblical references than before, and his speeches are shorter. He leaves most of the talking to his celebrity endorser Chuck Norris, who has accompanied him almost everywhere.

-- Joe Mathews

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