Republican vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan speaks during a campaign… (Jim Cole / Associated Press )
DERRY, N.H. — As Mitt Romney retreated to his home in a Boston suburb to rest up and prepare for his first debate with President Obama in Colorado next week, his campaign dispatched Paul D. Ryan to New Hampshire to energize volunteers in an effort to regain the Republican team’s footing in Romney’s neighboring state.
The former Massachusetts governor owns a summer home on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee and has assiduously courted Granite State voters this cycle and during his first presidential run four years ago. But a series of September polls, including the WMUR/University of New Hampshire survey and the NBC News/Marist College poll, showed Obama opening a 5-to 7-point lead over Romney.
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While Romney was fending off Republican rivals during the primary and faced restriction on what he could spend before he officially became the nominee, the Obama campaign began building its ground game here — opening 22 offices across the state. Romney now has eight New Hampshire offices that are operated in conjunction with the state and national branches of the party.
Obama was never a clear favorite here — he lost to Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 primary even though he had just won the Iowa caucuses — but ultimately he beat 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain by 9 points. McCain, whose campaign was bolstered by an energized and unique volunteer corps of fellow veterans in New Hampshire, edged Romney in the 2008 primary, 37%-32%. But in the 2012 New Hampshire primary, Romney beat even his closest competitor (Texas Rep. Ron Paul) by more than 16 points.
Still, the Romney campaign is playing catch-up after redeploying most of its New Hampshire staffers to other states following the primary in January. At Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, Ryan held a small rally with congressmen Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta. Hewing to his typical stump speech, Ryan argued that Obama’s economic agenda, including his stimulus program, had failed to spur economic growth, and called Romney the man for this moment.
“Granite Staters, you have an enormous responsibility and you have an enormous opportunity,” Ryan told a crowd of several hundred people. “A handful of states will settle this. You understand that…. You’ve had presidential candidates in your kitchens.”
“You have a responsibility to talk to your fellow citizens,” the Wisconsin congressman continued, “to get those people who liked the promise of hope and change four years ago, but are demoralized now—to show them that we have a better path; we have better ideas because we are going to reapply our founding principles.”
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Romney spent the day with his family. An aide said that he did not do debate prep on Saturday but that he is likely to huddle with advisors Sunday to get ready for Wednesday’s matchup with Obama.
Ryan will again carry the ticket’s message Sunday in a Fox News Sunday appearance that was pre-taped in New Hampshire after the Derry rally.
Romney’s next public event will be Monday evening in Colorado at around the same time that his wife, Ann, rallies voters in neighboring Nevada. She will hold her event in Henderson, a suburb of Nevada where Obama is headed for debate prep.