With less than an hour to go before polls close in New Hampshire, a huge crowd of reporters swarm Camp Gingrich. Flashbulbs and headphones are in the majority, as supporters are slowly starting to trickle in.
The ominous Huntsman signs with their signature black background and big red "H" in vogue font are conspicuously absent this primary night. Instead, new posters with traditional red or blue colors are spread around the crowded Huntsman headquarters in downtown Manchester sporting the new slogan "Country First". The tagline is a reference to the way he has repeatedly defended himself for his service as Ambassador to China under the Obama administration, something his opponents hope to paint as tantamount to working for the enemy.
At 7:00 pm, about 250 reporters, photographers and engineers are staking positions in the ballroom of the Derryfield Country Club in Manchester. There are a dozen satellite and ENG trucks in the parking lot, several with licenses plates from other time zones. Inside, the Santorum staff continues to play with signs and adjust lights, hoping to the make this an event most memorable.
The floor of the election night headquarters of Texas Representative Ron Paul still has a lot of open space, but more people are entering the room each minute. The Paul staff appears exhausted, and some young men sitting in front of the main stage do not look very animated.
The Paul Camp has a very strong media contingent, with a phalanx of camera crews and journalists spread across the entire back of the mid-sized room. Media crews from as far away as Denmark have gathered to cover Congressman Paul's address.
Strike up the band! Team Gingrich has hired Boston-based Tuxedo Junction to entertain the former Speaker's fans here in Manchester. The six-piece band will be playing a broad mix of tunes. Expect a few swing songs if polls look good...a dirge or two if Newt doesn't finish in the top three.
Tune in all evening for our broadcast during this New Hampshire Primary. In the studio with Laura Knoy, NPR Political Junkie Ken Rudin, and Dante Scala from the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute.
Jim Bragg, who calls himself Mitt Romney's "button-guy" is downstairs selling Romney campaign buttons, stickers, and blue and pink warm winter hats. Bragg was selling buttons at the Romney camp in Iowa during the caucus, but says the New Hampshire supporters tonight are much more enthusiastic. "This is a madhouse here," he says.
Supporters of front-runner Mitt Romney are gathering downstairs in the dining hall at Southern New Hampshire University. All the action will take place upstairs, but it won't be another 30 to 40 minutes before they start admitting the general public. A group of young staffers say they're very optimistic about Mitt's chances of placing first.
Polls will be closing soon here in Manchester. Outside of the Gingrich Camp, NH House Representative Laurie Pettengill (R, Carroll 1) is hoping to sway a few more voters over to Newt Gingrich. After volunteering for Romney four years ago, the first-term Representative is attracted to Newt's ideas for balancing the budget. "The conservative party is important to me," she says. "He's the right mix that we need."
In the hours before the polls close - and national reporters have nothing to do except bide their time before their live shots - there was some real buzz at the Santorum HQ. Literally. The audio system from the podium was plagued by a buzz. Any audio engineer will tell you such a gremlin is caused by a crossed wire, a short inside a line, or the impedance on a sound line being switched the wrong way. The problem is chasing it down among an army of radio and TV news crews.
NPR's Political Junkie Ken Rudin is on hand tonight to provide insight and analysis. You can follow him on Twitter at @KenRudin, and let us know your questions for him on our NHPR Facebook page, or @NHPR on Twitter.
Originally published on Tue January 10, 2012 12:45 pm
Primary Day in New Hampshire turned into open season as GOP rivals launched a barrage of attacks seeking to undermine front-runner Mitt Romney, whose campaign hopes to live up to expectations that he will deliver a solid victory.
Not only does Romney need to win, he needs to win convincingly — holding challengers such as Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and a resurgent Jon Huntsman comfortably at arm's length.