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Could New Hampshire hold the key? Romney and Obama take no chances.

Both Obama and Romney are squeezing in last-minute visits to New Hampshire this weekend, and their campaigns are running at full speed. And all for 4 electoral votes.

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Senator Rubio warmed up the audience by telling about his first trip to New Hampshire, campaigning for Bob Dole in 1996 by going door to door to hand out Florida oranges. Then he turned more serious as he talked about the need to preserve America’s free enterprise system, which makes it “unique to the history of the world.”

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As the US-born son of Cuban immigrants, he said he could see more clearly how important it was to preserve the ability of people in the United States to move up from the station they are born into, through hard work and talent.

Romney will support that system, and will work for bipartisan solutions to problems, Rubio said. And if Romney doesn’t win, “we’ll lose some of what makes us exceptional.”

The troops indeed got a jolt of motivation. Rubio has “more style and charisma than anyone in the Republican Party – he embodies the American dream,” said Sean Cooper, a Massachusetts resident who hopes New Hampshire will swing Romney’s way.

The Obama campaign attracted some new volunteers for the get-out-the-vote effort after an Oct. 27 event in Nashua in which more than 8,000 people showed up to hear James Taylor sing as the opening act for an Obama appearance, says volunteer Jacob Swartz, a Massachusetts resident who is taking a semester off from Harvard to go door to door for the president.

“Being in a battleground state, there’s a lot of attention put here….  Everyone is so oversaturated with political ads … [but with] people who feel really strongly about the issues knocking on doors, you hope that measure of personal contact makes a difference,” says Mr. Swartz, who’s surrounded by Obama posters, white telephones, a life-size poster board cutout of the president, and fellow volunteers grabbing snacks as they put in long hours at the campaign office on Main Street in Nashua.

“New Hampshire is a good microcosm for the nation in a lot of ways,” Swartz says. “Economic issues are a concern, the social safety net. There are a lot of hard-working middle class people who just want everyone to be on a level playing field…. We hope we’re not waking up on the 7th to a change.”

In such a close race, it’s hard to know if there will be much impact from having other candidates on the ballot. Here in New Hampshire, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode could siphon off some votes, says Linda Fowler, a government professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover.

The student vote could also make a difference, Professor Fowler says. A judge recently blocked an attempt by the legislature to make college students establish residency here in order to vote.

“We’re expecting a lot of attorneys to be engaging in poll watching to deny challengers the ability to intimidate students,” Fowler says.

RELATED: Seven battleground states: Does economy help Obama or Romney?


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