Candidates scramble before NH primary
( AP ) - Surging crowds and sharpening barbs preceded the climax of the New Hampshire primary campaign, as Democrat Barack Obama sought to hand Hillary Rodham Clinton her second defeat while Republican Mitt Romney worked furiously to avoid one himself.
Fire marshals from Manchester south to Salem and east to Exeter had to shut the doors to each of Obama's five rallies on Sunday, as crowds flocked to see the Illinois senator who took a step last week toward becoming the first black president with a decisive win in the Iowa caucuses.
"Something is stirring in the air, New Hampshire, something is going on," Obama said in Keene, where more people crammed into an overflow auditorium than could fit in the high school cafeteria where he appeared.
Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady trying to become the first female president, accused Obama of being behind a series of automated calls that said she was trashing his abortion rights record. She also sought to revive her campaign by casting Obama - with less than one term in Congress - as long on rhetoric but short on substance.
"You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose," Clinton told a raucous rally in Nashua.
On the airwaves, at a town hall meeting and later, in the second of two weekend debates, Romney worked with equal ferocity to avoid going 0-for- 2 in Iowa and New Hampshire.
" Washington is fundamentally broken, and one of the reasons I'm running for president is that I believe that my lifetime of work in the private sector, and in the voluntary sector, and as a governor, has taught me how to bring about fundamental change," Romney said during a Fox News Channel forum at St. Anselm College.
McCain replied: "All I can say is that I also had experience in leadership, not in management. I led the largest squadron in the U.S. Navy, not for profit, but for patriotism."
A new survey showed Obama opening a wide lead over Clinton, while the Republican race remained a statistical dead heat.
Obama had 41 percent, up from 32 percent in mid-December, in a new USA Today/Gallup poll. Clinton was at 28 percent, down from 32 percent. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards had 19 percent, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had 6 percent, and no other candidate had 3 percent.
On the Republican side, McCain had 34 percent, up from 27 percent in mid-December, while Romney had 30 percent, down from 34 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was third with 13 percent, while Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani were tied at 8 percent. No other candidate, including former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who conceded Sunday he was focusing on South Carolina rather than New Hampshire, was above 3 percent.
Both surveys had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, a small enough gap to consider the GOP race tied.
Huckabee, looking ahead to the Florida primary, campaigned in New Hampshire with state House Speaker Marco Rubio and state Rep. David Rivera. Florida's primary, on Jan. 29, follows the Jan. 19 South Carolina GOP primary.
Edwards was closing out his New Hampshire campaign with an all-night bus tour of the state. He had early morning stops planned for Berlin, Littleton and Claremont, with 10 more events throughout the day and evening.
"While everyone else goes to bed tonight," Edwards told a Nashua audience Sunday, "I'm going to be out working."