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  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Patty Zahariasm of Derry, holds up a Romney bumper sticker during Saturday morning's campaign stop at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Gov. Mitt Romney meets with supporters after delivering his speech during a campaign stop at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, Saturday morning.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Seen between Sen. Kelly Ayotte, left, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Gov. Mitt Romney talks about his plans for America during a campaign stop in Derry, Saturday morning.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Presidential hopeful, Gov. Mitt Romney, listens as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley introduces him during Saturday morning's campaign stop at Pinkerton High School in Derry.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Gov. Mitt Romney delivers a campaign speech to a full house at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, Saturday morning.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Mitt Romney gesticulates toward to crowd during Saturday morning's campaign stop at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Tracie Koelb, center, folds her hands and listens as Gov. Mitt Romney delivers a stump speech during Saturday morning's campaign stop at Pinkerton High School in Derry.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Cory Cunningham, of Newburgh, NY, sits on a tree branch near Honey Pot Pond, behind Homestead Grocery and Deli in Amherst, Saturday afternoon. Nearby, Rick Santorum was pre-taping a segment for Mike Huckabee's Fox New show shortly after finishing a campaign stop at the store.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    From a picnic table from behind Homestead Grocery and Deli in Amherst, Rick Santorum answers questions from people who gathered for a campaign stop at the store.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum is framed by props of the media while giving a stump speech to people gathered at the Homestead Grocery and Deli in Amherst, Saturday afternoon.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS


    Rick Santorum waves at the end of a campaign visit at the Homestead Grocery and Deli, Saturday afternoon.
Saturday, January 7, 2012

Romney tempers expectations at Derry campaign stop

Crossing the region this weekend, two of the leading presidential candidates played the numbers game.

Speaking before a crowd Saturday morning in Derry, GOP front-runner Mitt Romney joked about his tight eight-vote victory over challenger Rick Santorum in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses.

“Maybe we could double that number (in New Hampshire)?” Romney asked sarcastically, speaking before a 300-plus crowd at Pinkerton Academy. “Instead of an eight-vote margin, maybe 16?”

Meanwhile, Santorum, who has surged in the days since the caucuses, reaching third in some recent polls, cited his rising poll numbers before an audience at the Homestead Grocery and Cafe in Amherst.

“We started out a little further behind than I would have liked,” Santorum told crowd the gathering of about 200. “Thirty-nine points is a little bit to make up in just a few days.”

With two days remaining before Tuesday’s primary, these numbers are in flux.

Romney, who has led the field throughout the campaign, has slipped slightly in recent days, dropping four percentage points to 39 percent of prospective voters, according to Suffolk University’s daily tracking poll. During that time, Santorum has jumped from 3 to 9 percent, joining former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in third place.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul ranks second in the poll with 17 percent, according to the most recent tracking, released Saturday.

“The Santorum thing is real, but truthfully, I don’t think (Romney) has much to worry about. The other candidates have come and gone, but he’s been ahead the whole time,” Jerry Lombardo, a Romney supporter from Derry, said Saturday morning at the Pinkerton Academy event.

“(Santorum) might not win the primary, but if he finishes second, that could really turn into something,” countered Ron Pepine, a Santorum supporter from Hudson who attended the Amherst event. “He’s going to be in this race for a long time.”

At the Derry event, Romney didn’t mention Santorum or any of the other Republican challengers by name. Instead, he focused his attacks solely on President Barack Obama, criticizing his handling of the military, health care and government spending, among other matters.

“This president has failed in almost every dimension,” Romney said to raucous applause.

Santorum echoed Romney’s critique of the president, saying “We have a man in the White House who sees America differently than the people here. (He sees) America as something that needs to be managed, that needs to be taken care of.”

But before long, Santorum turned his sights directly toward Romney, who would not help the country change course, he said.

“The leader of this race fashions himself as ‘I’m a CEO. I’m a good manager.’” Santorum said of Romney. “Washington, D.C., and this government doesn’t need a good manager. They need someone with a bold vision to transform Washington to limit government.”

According to the Suffolk daily tracking poll, at least 15 percent of supporters remain undecided moving toward Tuesday’s election.

Some of those uncommitted voters turned out to see Santorum on Saturday.

“I’m still looking around,” Desmond Coffee, of Amherst, said after Santorum left the stage. “I liked some of what he had to say, but there are a lot of candidates.”

But judging by the number of signs, stickers and pins, the crowd was more committed at the Romney event. Most of those in the crowd, many of whom came from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and other states, are firmly committed to the GOP front-runner, they said.

“I just believe his vision for America is the one we need,” said Tim Lussier, a college student who flew all the way from Hawaii to offer his support.

“He understands how business is done,” added Norm Olsen, of Portsmouth. “In my mind, the only real issue in this election is the economy, and that’s his strong point. … He’s the most electable.”

Not everyone in either crowd was as pleased with the candidates, however.

As Santorum left the Amherst event, a group of protesters followed him out, chanting, “End the wars. Tax the rich.” And a similar group of opponents interrupted Romney during his Derry speech, repeating, “Mitt kills jobs,” until police escorted them from the auditorium.

“He kills jobs and he doesn’t believe in free speech,” one of the protesters, Brian Schneck, of Long Island, N.Y., said as the event concluded. “It’s a sales pitch,” Schneck said of Romney’s jobs record. “What jobs did he really create? Eight dollars an hour with no benefits? Is that what everyone wants? ... It’s a charade. We deserve better than this.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com.