Romney Seeks To Close The Deal In New Hampshire

To make sure Mitt Romney's slim but steady lead in New Hampshire holds up, his campaign will take steps to "tighten" his message there and "close the deal" with conservative voters, advisers said today.

Romney's television traffic will begin to emphasize his experience as a businessman above all else -- his tenure at Bain Capital and his stewardship of the 2002 Olympic Games. Those biographical ads, which will be reinforced on the radio and through the mail, will be interspersed with traditional issues ads on subjects like immigration and spending.

To date, Romney's campaign in New Hampshire has been aggressive and loosely focused. It has succeeded, according to public and internal polls, in attracting hard core conservatives. But his advisers acknowledge that he has not sealed the deal.

There might be too many Romney messages out there. He speaks often of the three-legged stool and the need for a Republican presidential nominee to be seen as favoring strong families, a strong economy and a strong national defense. There is no single attribute that defines Romney -- no hook on which voters can hang their support. By contrast, Rudy Giuliani is identified with September 11th and his stewardship in New York City, and John McCain's status as a hero (or as a 2000-era reformer) is often the first thing that comes to the mind of New Hampshire voters.

For Romney, that hook will be his career as a business executive and record as manager.

Romney's tightening focus comes as Rudy Giuliani begins a push to usurp Romney's first-place position there. The Giuliani campaign has about as many staffers in New Hampshire as it does in Iowa and Florida. Strategists see the state as their prime opportunity to steal a victory from the early-state frontrunner -- Romney. Indeed, Giuliani's positions on moral issues are unobjectionable to most Republicans. And his tenure as mayor of New York City poses no ontological problems for Northeastern Republicans.

To date, Giuliani has confused his rivals by his absence from the television airwaves. His campaign makes tens of thousands of voter contacts a week by mail and telephone, and his radio ads are ubiquitous.