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New Hampshire primary: why the 2012 campaign is different

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Why Romney resonates

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has held a formidable lead in New Hampshire for months, and his appeal to voters here is multipronged, political scientists say.

Republican voters in the state tend to be fiscally conservative but not as passionate about socially conservative issues (think abortion and gay marriage) as Republicans elsewhere in the country – which is a better match for Mr. Romney's record. And Romney's Mormon faith isn't a barrier, as it may be elsewhere, because "Yankees ... think [your religion] is nobody's business," says Linda Fowler, a political scientist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Romney also has a home-turf advantage: He owns a lake house here, and voters are familiar with him from his 2008 bid for the nomination (he came in second, behind Sen. John McCain).

New Hampshire is "a must win for [Romney] ... and he's got to come in first by a decent margin" of about eight percentage points, Ms. Donahue says.

Nationally, Romney has struggled to expand his support, falling behind former House Speaker Gingrich in many polls.

The results of the New Hampshire primary "will give us a good indication of how deep the resistance to Mitt Romney is among Republican primary voters," says Scott Rasmussen, president of polling firm Rasmussen Reports.

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