In N.H., campaign shifts to overdrive
Spotlight, rivals heat up contest
MANCHESTER, N.H. - The presidential campaign in New Hampshire went into overdrive yesterday even before Iowa voters went to the caucuses last night.
Republicans John McCain and Rudy Giuliani stumped across the state, hoping for a strong finish leading up to Tuesday's primary. Mitt Romney was slated to arrive early this morning, catch a few hours of sleep, and plunge into a nearly nonstop schedule of campaigning and debate appearances.
Even as Romney campaigned in Iowa, he launched a new attack on McCain, his main rival in New Hampshire, unveiling a television ad featuring people praising the senator's military record but lambasting his actions in Congress on taxes and illegal immigration. The ad repeats charges that McCain opposed President Bush's tax cuts and that he favored "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
McCain has said he never supported amnesty, but did back President Bush's plan to put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship behind legal immigrants. McCain no longer supports such a plan. McCain has said he would still oppose President Bush's tax cuts because they failed to include a provision to cut spending.
McCain, after landing at the Manchester airport yesterday afternoon from Iowa, declared that "we will win" the primary.
The Arizona Republican derided Romney's new ad, suggesting that the former Massachusetts governor resorted to people on the street because he couldn't quote newspaper endorsements as McCain can.
"If you can't find a quote from a newspaper endorsement, then maybe you have to find some people," McCain said.
McCain aired a new television spot of his own, reminding voters of his victory here in 2000 and asked once again for their help.
"The issues are tougher and the times more dangerous," McCain said in the ad, appearing before a large American flag. "I've learned a lot in eight years. And I feel better prepared than ever to lead this country."
Meanwhile, the office of the New Hampshire attorney general said it doesn't expect to identify who was behind phone calls that questioned Romney's Mormon faith until after Tuesday's primary.
In a brief report, Attorney General Kelly Ayotte pointed to two firms: Western Wats, of Orem, Utah, that made the calls; and Moore-Information Inc., of Portland, Ore., that hired Western Wats. But Moore-Information has refused to name its client, and a court hearing is not set until Jan. 16.
The callers also made statements strongly supporting McCain, whose campaign immediately called for the investigation, suggesting the calls were designed to embarrass him.
Giuliani, who made only a modest effort in Iowa, once was given a chance of competing against Romney in New Hampshire. But as the Granite State contest has shifted to a close battle between Romney and McCain, Giuliani yesterday sought to focus on a respectable second-tier finish here, which he hopes will put him in position to remain competitive into Florida on Jan. 29 and Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, when 22 states are scheduled to vote.
"This is a different kind of election," Giuliani told reporters while campaigning in Bedford. "We've never had 29 primary and caucuses in one month. . . . Something different is going to win this election. We hope it's our different strategy that wins it. And we're confident it will."
All of the candidates will be under an extraordinary time crunch. Instead of eight days between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, as occurred in 2004, there are only five days this year.
Moreover, the candidates face crucial debates - back-to-back Republican and Democratic forums Saturday night on ABC, and another Republican one Sunday night on Fox News.
Controversy continued yesterday over the preliminary decisions by debate organizers about who will appear on stage. For example, Fox News said it planned to exclude Representative Ron Paul, the Texas Republican, even though Paul said he raised nearly $20 million in the last quarter of 2007.
Bryan Bender of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.