- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire voters began casting their ballots at schools and churches Tuesday in the nation’s first presidential primary as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich kept up his attacks on the record of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner.

“I think the contrast with Romney that will matter is the contrast with his record as governor,” Mr. Gingrich told reporters outside a polling station in Manchester. He has criticized Mr. Romney as a timid liberal, as well as blasting Mr. Romney’s performance as a venture capitalist as CEO of Bain Capital.

Mr. Romney still held a double-digit lead in polls Tuesday as voting began. He is hoping a victory in New Hampshire will give him momentum heading into South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21, where he faces a tougher slog.

In a New Hampshire tradition, nine registered voters in tiny Dixville Notch cast their ballots at midnight. The top vote-getters on the GOP side were Mr. Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., both of whom received two votes. Mr. Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul each garnered one vote. President Obama, who is running unopposed on the Democratic ticket, received three votes.

At the Webster School polling place in Manchester, a massive media horde engulfed Mr. Huntsman as he arrived with his wife around noon. Police, including two atop black horses, worked to control the situation.

Mr. Huntsman shook hands with potential supporters while Romney supporters chanted, “Go, Mitt, go!” and called out, “Who’s Obama’s boy? Jonny!” — a shot at Mr. Huntsman’s service as ambassador to China in the Obama administration.

On his way in to cast his vote, Pat Austin, 28, of Manchester, said he was supporting Mr. Romney for the second time in as many Republican presidential primaries.

“I kind view myself as more as a moderate than a conservative,” Mr. Austin said. He added that some Republicans have gone too far to the right on social issues and that some of Mr. Romney’s rivals are leveling disingenuous attacks against him.

He said of Mr. Romney’s time at Bain Capital, “That’s what you’re supposed to do, is make businesses more profitable.”

Bruce Perreaul, 62, of Manchester also supported Mr. Romney in 2008 and again Tuesday. Mr. Perreaul said the other candidates didn’t compare because the “number one issue is we’ve got to beat Obama.”

“I think he’s the best candidate,” Mr. Perreaul said. “I think he is going to beat Barack Obama. He combines political experience with free enterprise experience.”

Dan Ellingwood said that he voted for Mr. Huntsman and that Mr. Romney was “too polished.”

“He comes across as being bought and too rehearsed,” the 64-year-old Mr. Ellingwood said. Mr. Huntsman, he argued, is someone he can “trust.”

Mike McCarthy supported Ron Paul. “I like all his views on getting back to the Constitution,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I’m a big Second Amendment rights activist.”

Mr. McCarthy also said that he’ll be happy when the primary is over.

“This place turns into a zoo every four years,” the 39-year-old said.

Mr. Huntsman called himself “the underdog” Tuesday and said he believed the results from Dixville Notch are “a harbinger of things to come.”

“If you exceed expectations here, then you’re going to light up South Carolina and the states beyond,” Mr. Huntsman said on CNN.

In a fundraising email to supporters, Mr. Huntsman said: “Today is the day all our hard work is finally going to pay off. Recent polls have us surging forward. …We are on the cusp of building a movement that will carry us to South Carolina, Florida and beyond.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who fell eight votes shy of beating Mr. Romney in the Iowa caucuses last week, told supporters that he thrives in elections when the pundits take him for granted.

“When everyone says, ‘You can’t win,’ I say, ‘I got ‘em where I want ‘em,” Mr. Santorum said. “They continue to underestimate, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

At the Green Street Community Center polling station in Concord, the state capital, several voters said Mr. Huntsman had earned their support.

“He appears to be the grown-up in the room,” said Fred Burgess, a retiree from Concord. “I think he relates to regular folks like us.”

His wife, Nancy, said she also voted for Mr. Huntsman.

“He has a good grasp of international issues and business,” she said.

James Kiefner, 18, voted for the first time and cast his ballot for Mr. Obama.

“He hasn’t been given enough of a chance,” Mr. Kiefner said.

His mother, Patricia, an independent who formerly was a registered Republican, voted for Mr. Huntsman.

“He’s the most sane of the group,” she said. “This group of Republicans is not enough to make me proud to be a Republican.”

Polls in New Hampshire close at 7 p.m.

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