Mitt Romney seeks neighborly reception in N.H.  

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The Washington Post
December 26. 2007 12:06AM

Wes Burke does not really know Mitt Romney as the multimillionaire corporate turnaround whiz or savior of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics or presidential candidate with the reputation for changing his mind. He knows him as the guy who, on a visit to Burke's Wolfeboro home one Sunday, noticed water running high behind the dam on the property and then offered to go with Burke to fix the broken pump.

"He's a real person," said Burke, sporting an Indian headdress after leading a Cub Scout meeting at the Mormon temple where Romney often worships.

Romney enjoys a home-field advantage in the New Hampshire Republican primary. He served four years as governor of Massachusetts, giving him exposure to the state's voters via the Boston television stations many of them watch, and his family has had for the past decade a house on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Yet gauging the depth of this advantage is no easy task, because Romney's relationship with New Hampshire is fraught with complexity. Many New Hampshire voters have mixed feelings about Massachusetts, an ambivalence that Romney may or may not be spared given that as a Republican he was fighting against his state's prevailing political tide. Then there is New Hampshire's uncertain relationship with its regular summer visitors, including a thriving community of Mormon vacationers on the Winnipesaukee.

Finally, there is Romney himself, who in his family background (roots in Michigan and Utah) and personal style (corporate power suits and nary a dropped "r") is hardly the prototypical New Englander. On the trail here, Romney seems at times almost to play down his local connections, casting himself more as a generically American business executive who just happens to have lived in the area the past few decades.

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