MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) â?? Time is running short for Mitt Romney's Republican presidential rivals to derail him â?? at least in New Hampshire.
On the final full day of campaigning before Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary, the GOP front-runner's opponents â?? and fiercest critics â?? were to make final appeals to Republican voters unenthused with the idea of the former Massachusetts governor as the party's nominee.
The candidates were all but tripping over each other Monday, concentrating their appearances in the southern half of the state known for holding town-hall style meetings in real town halls. Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman all planned to visit Nashua at some point during the day. Hudson, Bedford, Manchester, Dover, Salem and Concord also proved to be popular stops, with at least two candidates planning events in each.
Knocking Romney off his perch before Tuesday won't be easy.
He has spent the better part of two years essentially adopting the state as his own and now holds a comfortable lead in pre-primary polls as his rivals essentially battle for second place.
Roughly $5 million has been spent on TV ads in the state by candidates and political action committees aligned with them â?? called super PACS â?? with most of the money coming from a pro-Jon Huntsman group and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Romney has spent roughly $1 million.
The former Massachusetts governor won the Iowa caucuses last week by a scant eight votes over Santorum.
Santorum was followed by Paul, with Gingrich fourth, Texas Gov. Rick Perry fifth and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann in last place. She has since quit the race.
Huntsman, the former Utah governor, skipped Iowa in hopes of a breakout showing in New Hampshire.
South Carolina comes next, on Jan. 21, the first Southern state to hold a primary. Perry is skipping New Hampshire to campaign full-time in South Carolina in hopes of reviving his candidacy.Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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