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Mitt Romney bus tour: second chance at first impression in New Hampshire

Mitt Romney has launched a three-day bus tour in New Hampshire, in part, to erase his aloof image. He's giving more interviews and shaking more hands – and getting a bump in the polls.

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Other political experts see the tour not so much as a reinvention as an attempt for Romney to humanize himself. He wants to “make himself more exciting as a candidate ... but still [maintain the image] of the steady, dependable candidate ... the safe bet as the best chance to beat Obama,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

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Republican activists in early voting states, including New Hampshire, have gained a more favorable view of Romney in recent weeks, according to the latest Power Outsiders poll by the Huffington Post and Patch. Romney’s got 35 percent of their support compared with Gingrich’s 23 percent; and 26 percent say their views of Romney have improved recently.

In national polls, Romney holds a lead averaging 13 percentage points over Gingrich, Real Clear Politics reports.

In New Hampshire, Romney has also picked up endorsements of late that “reinforce the idea that people are getting on board,” says Fergus Cullen, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, who is still undecided. That includes some Republicans who had been reluctant to commit to him earlier in the campaign, such as prominent conservative Jennifer Horn.

“It’s like the accountant your mother is encouraging you to date,” Mr. Cullen says. You may want someone more exciting, but you’re swayed by the argument that he’d be the good and stable choice.

The fight in Iowa by candidates like Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann has helped blunt Gingrich’s momentum, analysts say. But if Romney finishes fourth there, “it would increase the pressure on him to prove that Iowa was a fluke,” says Galdieri. “His big thing has always been [his] inevitability ... and once actual votes come in, if [the results] start challenging that perspective, it could be really damaging.”

After Iowa, Romney will have one more week to come back to New Hampshire to try to prove that he can “earn it” here.

Associated Press material was used in this report.

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