2012 ELECTION

New Hampshire primary: Voting begins in NH primary

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Mitt Romney, long expected to glide to a smooth victory in New Hampshire's Republican presidential primary, bumped through a rough patch on voting day, trying to deflect his rivals' portrayal of him as a business vulture who enjoys laying off workers.

(Photo: Associated Press)

When Romney reached out for a supporter's infant daughter at a polling place, someone in the crowd shouted, "Are you going to fire the baby?"

Still, Romney was looking for a big win Tuesday night that could contribute to a sense that his campaign for the GOP nomination may be unstoppable, despite some foot-in-mouth moments.

PHOTOS: Live from New Hampshire

His challengers brought only modest hopes to their smiling, hand-shaking visits to polling sites - just let me come in third place or so, most said, and survive to challenge the front-runner again in South Carolina and Florida.

A narrower than expected win for Romney in the nation's first presidential primary - or a surprisingly strong finish from one of his opponents - could shake things up.

Either would play as more evidence that Republican voters still aren't sold on Romney, who barely squeezed out his first win last week in Iowa's caucuses.

A microcosm of such doubts was on display with the first ballots cast, in tiny Dixville Notch, the village that traditionally votes at midnight. Romney and Jon Huntsman each received two of the six votes.

One went to Newt Gingrich and the other to Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning candidate who is dismissed by many Republicans nationally but has been polling in second place in the state for months.

"Dixville Notch might be a harbinger in this race," said Huntsman, a former Utah governor who skipped Iowa to pin his hopes on a strong showing among New Hampshire's independents and moderates.

The rest of New Hampshire's electorate was going to the polls throughout the day. Donna Parris, 52, an independent from Concord, cast her vote for Huntsman - and against the Romney steamroller.

"The leader of the pack right now, I don't want in there," Parris said, describing the former Massachusetts governor as "just a real political-speaking guy that I don't think is going to change anything."

Romney waded through a crowd of supporters, detractors and media at a polling place in Manchester, where he defended his ill-chosen "I like to fire people" comment Monday that drew instant ridicule from his rivals.

"I was talking about, as you know, insurance companies," he said. "We all like to get rid of our insurance companies."

 

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