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Mr. Sununu praised Mr. Romney as a “true conservative,” citing his cutting of deficits as governor in Massachusetts without raising taxes, and his support of traditional marriage when Massachusetts courts approved of same-sex marriage.

“That’s a true conservative,” Mr. Sununu said. “That’s a real leader.”

Mr. Gingrich, endorsed by the state’s largest newspaper, was hammering Mr. Romney in ads in New Hampshire, calling him a “timid Massachusetts moderate.”

Even as rivals questioned his conservative credentials, Mr. Romney set his sights on President Obama.

Mr. Romney accused Mr. Obama of a “long list of failures,” including his handling of the economy, failing to get tough enough with Iran and fomenting class warfare.

“I think he’s inspired by those European-style welfare states and believes the purpose of government is in part to take from some people and give to others,” Mr. Romney said.

Mr. McCain noted that Mr. Obama intends to run against Congress this year, but the Arizona Republican said the president and congressional Democrats had total control when they conducted “bailouts and Obamacare” and a $787 billion stimulus plan that failed to lower unemployment rates.

“He can run, but he can’t hide from his record,” Mr. McCain said of the president. He also accused Mr. Obama of “making this country bankrupt and destroying our national security.”

New Hampshire has a significant number of veterans and Mr. McCain’s endorsement should help, said Bob Shine of Londonderry, a Romney supporter and a veteran.

“They respect McCain’s service,” said Mr. Shine, adding that he believes Mr. Santorum’s support from the religious right “isn’t going to translate as well up here in New Hampshire.”

Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain managed to forge an alliance during Mr. McCain’s presidential candidacy in 2008 against Mr. Obama, despite some competitive testiness. Mr. McCain had once joked about Mr. Romney’s efforts to appeal to sportsmen and gun owners by being photographed hunting for “varmints,” implying that he was not a serious outdoorsman.

A poll released Wednesday by 7 News/Suffolk University showed Mr. Romney building on his commanding lead in New Hampshire, with 43 percent, compared with 14 percent for Mr. Paul, whose support slipped from 16 percent a day earlier in the same poll.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who skipped Iowa to concentrate his efforts on New Hampshire, is third at 9 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was fourth at 7 percent but falling, and Mr. Santorum was fifth at 6 percent and picking up support.

“If Santorum surpasses Gingrich and knocks him into fifth place, it would be fatal for Gingrich,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in a statement.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is ignoring New Hampshire to pin his fading presidential hopes on South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary. Mrs. Bachmann ended her bid for the White House on Wednesday after her poor showing in Iowa.

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