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CAMPAIGN '08: FINAL PUSH IN NEW HAMPSHIRE / MITT ROMNEY

Campaign takes a wide turn into an 'outsider' lane

January 08, 2008|Michael Finnegan

NASHUA, 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:

REPUBLICANS

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In his four-day burst of campaigning for the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire, the buzzword for Mitt Romney has been "change."

But just as striking as the change that he promises for the nation was the change that Romney himself underwent after Mike Huckabee trounced him Thursday in the Iowa Republican caucuses.

Romney's new message: "Washington Is Broken." So proclaimed a blue-and-white banner displayed behind him at a weekend campaign stop in a Nashua school cafeteria.

Romney has not entirely abandoned his vows to strengthen America's military, its economy and its families with a back-to-the-'50s dose of conservative values. But he has made a radical shift in emphasis, seeking to convince New Hampshire voters that he can satisfy the public's thirst for a change in the country's direction.

Proclaiming his outsider credentials, Romney recalled his career as a Boston investment executive who ran the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, then served one term as governor of Massachusetts. But it was no easy task for Romney to cast himself as an agent of change while also applauding President Bush's leadership.

Romney's main target in New Hampshire has been Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has surpassed him in polls of GOP primary voters. McCain may be widely known as a maverick often at odds with colleagues of his own party, but Romney has depicted the Arizona senator as a consummate Washington insider.

His anti-McCain drumbeat has centered on taxes and immigration. It is the same tactic that Romney used against Huckabee in Iowa, so it is no small gamble to wager that it will fare any better in New Hampshire.

At the Nashua cafeteria, Romney slammed McCain for standing by his votes against Bush's tax cuts. His biggest applause line came after attacking McCain and others for backing steps to legalize undocumented immigrants.

"In my opinion, that's a form of amnesty," Romney said. "In my opinion, that is wrong. That will only encourage more illegal immigration. It's time to stop illegal immigration."

-- Michael Finnegan

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