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Election Connection

January 6, 2008

Presidential campaign enters the home stretch

With the New Hampshire primary just a day away, it looks like both the Republican and Democratic races could be headed for a photo finish.

About a year ago, University of New Hampshire political experts Andy Smith and Dante Scala sat down with a reporter from The Eagle-Tribune to handicap the 2008 presidential race, looking at the front-runners, the also-rans and even a few dark horses.

Last week, we met with the two pundits at a popular campaign stop — the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester — to talk about what has changed over the past year, and which candidates have emerged or faded. They took a look at the race from the starting gate in January 2007 to the home stretch tomorrow.

The stakes couldn’t be higher — a leg up in the run for the ultimate winner’s circle, the Oval Office.

The Republicans

And they’re off.

At this time a year ago, Mitt Romney was behind both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. But he quickly made up ground. By late spring and early summer, he had overtaken the two odds-on favorites.

Romney did it by working hard in the state, building an organization and spending a lot of money.

“His (campaign) centerpiece is to win New Hampshire,” Smith said.

McCain, who won this race in 2000, faltered after a strong start. His unpopular stances on the war in Iraq and immigration had him almost out of the running by the fall. His campaign nearly went bankrupt, and several key advisers resigned. In one memorable moment, the Arizona senator was forced to fly coach class to a campaign appearance in the Granite State.

Giuliani, though buoyed by McCain’s apparent collapse, fell off the pace a bit, which allowed Romney to put some distance between himself and the rest of the field.

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