By: FOX News Radio's Jeff Monosso in Manchester, NH
There are a few "firsts" happening this week in New Hampshire. On a personal level, it's my first trip to the Granite State, where the motto is "Live Free or Die." It's also the location of the nation's first Presidential primary.
Why New Hampshire? Here's a history lesson. The first primary was held here in 1916. Back then, voters could only choose a selection of delegates and not Presidential contenders. That changed in 1952, when the big political names of the day were Truman, Taft, and Eisenhower. Votes were taken on the second Tuesday of March. However, a statute put in place in 1975 required the Secretary of State to schedule New Hampshire's primary at least seven days before any other state holds a similar election. As other states moved up their primary dates, New Hampshire followed. The earliest primary held here was on January 8, 2008.
If Mitt Romney wins Tuesday's contest, he'll be the first non-incumbent Republican Presidential Candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. The latest state polls show Romney is on track to pull it off.
It's also a first for Rick Santorum. The now top-tier Presidential candidate went from empty coffee houses and diners to overflow crowds at stops here. A rally last Friday in Manchester had to be moved outside to accommodate the hundreds of people who showed up. The former Pennsylvania Senator continues to ride a wave of momentum following his surge and second place showing in Iowa. He's raising a lot of cash too, fresh off a shoestring budget.
What's familiar in New Hampshire is the battle for votes. Even though the GOP Presidential pool has been whittled down, those still remaining are fighting hard, trying to sell themselves as "the most conservative," while labeling their competition as "moderate," along with a list of other harsh attacks. Rick Perry spent virtually no time here. Ron Paul has, and his army of followers is here too. Newt Gingrich admits he won't win New Hampshire, but is doing everything he can to knock Romney. Jon Huntsman bet the farm on the Granite State. Like Mitt Romney, Huntsman campaigned here for months, even avoiding the Iowa Caucuses.
Likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire are more moderate then folks in Iowa where social issues reign supreme. Here, it's all about the economy, and despite polls, there is a large chunk of undecided and independent voters who'll be watching candidates. I have talked to many likely GOP primary voters here and asked them, "What's the most important issue to you?" They respond the same way many Iowans did, saying "Beating President Obama in November."
Listen HERE to some of Jeff Monosso's reporting from New Hampshire: