MANCHESTER, N.H - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney flexed his campaign's organizational muscle in the key early voting state of New Hampshire Saturday, unleashing hundreds of volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls on his behalf.
Standing before a poster reading "Earn It," Romney said his campaign has already placed 200,000 phone calls in the state of 1.3 million people, and planned to call an additional 12,000 potential voters today.
Romney, former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, has held a wide lead in most polls of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary of the 2012 presidential contest on Jan 10.
But in a survey taken Nov. 28, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich pulled to within 10 percentage points of Romney following an important newspaper endorsement.
Gingrich has added advisers in New Hampshire recently, but his grass-roots apparatus there pales next to that of Romney, whose volunteers aimed to "knock on 5,000 doors ... and put together 10,000 yard signs" on Saturday alone.
Romney continued to draw contrasts with Gingrich, who has soared to the top of many national Republican polls.
Gingrich could benefit from the suspension of businessman Herman Cain's campaign on Saturday after weeks of allegations about sexual impropriety.
Romney, who has had an uneasy relationship with the conservative Tea Party that has been the core of Cain's support, made an appeal for the group's backing by highlighting his background in the private sector.
"Speaker Gingrich is a fine person but he's spent his life in Washington," said Romney. "That doesn't exactly line up with the Tea Partiers. I think when things are said and done I'll have good support from the Tea Party and hopefully the majority of their support."
Among those coming out to knock on doors for Romney was David Swett of Concord, who said he voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 but was backs the Republican, despite disagreeing with him on issues such as abortion.
"I've been a Democrat for 20 years but I think the country's in trouble," Swett said, praising Romney's leadership as Massachusetts governor and as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. "Gingrich is too far to the right."
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