Recent polls show a wild finish shaping up for the New Hampshire primary.
"It sure looks that way," said Robert Letourneau, a former state senator from Derry. "I think the race is for second and third. I think it's very tight. Your guess is as good as mine."
The neck-and-neck race is charging up campaign supporters.
"Oh, yeah," said Rep. Donna Mauro, R-Windham, said, pleased to learn her pick, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, was running second.
In one poll, Paul was closing the gap against Letourneau's man, front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"That's awesome," Mauro said. "I'd like to see Ron Paul number one."
There's almost no doubt about the winner. Romney is in command and ready to claim victory tonight, though some observers say a smaller-than-expected margin of victory for him could change the complexion of the GOP nominating race.
The real suspense is over what happens down the ballot as the contestants vie to keep their hopes alive for the Republican nomination.
"All of the candidates below Romney have a good chance of finishing anywhere between second and fifth place," University of New Hampshire pollster Andy Smith said.
The final UNH/WMUR-TV poll had Romney at 41 percent, Paul at 17 percent, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. tied at 11 percent, then former House speaker Newt Gingrich at 8 percent.
But the poll's margin of error, plus or minus 4.6 percent, means at the end of today Gingrich could be number two and Paul could drop to fifth.
Suffolk University/7News, in weekend polling released yesterday, had Romney at 33 percent, Paul at 20, Huntsman at 13, Gingrich at 11 and Santorum at 10. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
In Rockingham County, Suffolk polling had Romney at 37 percent, Paul at 16, Huntsman at 14, Gingrich at 10 and Santorum at 8.
Never mind what the polls say.
Here's some advice from a professional poll watcher to the voters.
"Do what you want to do," said Charles Franklin, founder of PollsAndVotes.com. "Sometimes the polls can get it wrong."
Franklin, a visiting professor of law and public policy at the Marquette University law school, analyzes poll data and trends.
He said he expects Gingrich, Santorum and Paul to play on in South Carolina, no matter the outcome today.
"At this point, Huntsman needs a stronger finish," Franklin said. "He's still polling in the single digits in South Carolina. To go to South Carolina, Huntsman needs a second-place finish, a surprisingly strong finish."
Letourneau was upbeat about Romney's prospects. This could be the first time a candidate has swept Iowa and New Hampshire on the nomination path, he said.
"I'm pretty excited about that," he said.
Letourneau and Mauro will be out campaigning for their candidates today.
"I'm going to be at the polls all day in Derry," Letourneau said.
He will be holding a Romney sign and answering questions for voters who ask.
Mauro will be the Paul campaign's eyes and ears at the Windham polling place, monitoring the process. But she concedes she has confidence in Town Clerk Nicole Merrill and her crew.
"I trust Nikki," Mauro said.
Town election officials are ready for action.
"We're ready," Hampstead deputy town clerk Arline Grant said. "Hopefully, it will be a smooth, peaceful day."
The same thoughts were on the mind of Pelham town clerk Dottie Marsden.
"We are ready, I hope so," Marsden said.
This won't be the biggest voter turnout for the year. Marsden and Grant said more people will come out in November for the presidential election.
New Hampshire also will be electing a governor and two congressmen in November, as well as filling seats in the Legislature and in county government.
The secretary of state's office has predicted 325,000 voters will participate in today's primary. That includes 250,000 Republican ballots, 75,000 on the Democrat side. Independent voters in New Hampshire can choose to vote in either primary.
Letourneau said today won't exactly be like Christmas to political activists.
"It's more like Thanksgiving," he said. "Christmas will come next November. That's when we've got to get Obama out of the White House."
Mauro won't be ready to celebrate, even though she would be delighted by a great Paul showing today.
"I'm not going to celebrate until he gets into office," she said.
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Trouble at the polls?
The state attorney general and U.S. attorney's office have election complaint lines at their offices.
The attorney general number is 1-866-868-3703. Complaints also may also be submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. attorney's election line is 491-7078. Complaints may be submitted through the U.S. attorney's website, usdoj.gov/usao/nh. Click on the "email us" link.
Both office complaint lines will be staffed today from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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