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It's Prime Time for Paul in New Hampshire

If the polls are any indication, it's unlikely that U.S. Rep. Ron Paul will emerge as the victor in today's primary in New Hampshire. Still, finishing anywhere near the top would help to keep his momentum going.

U.S. Congressman Ron Paul headlines a town hall in Meredith, NH. About 500 supporters and undecided voters showed up to hear him speak ahead of Tuesday's primary.

If the polls are any indication, it's unlikely that U.S. Rep. Ron Paul will emerge as the victor in today's primary in New Hampshire. But he's strongly positioned to take second.

Finishing anywhere in the top tier would help to propel his campaign forward, said the University of New Hampshire's Dante Scala, an expert on the first-in-the nation primary.

Paul's following in the Granite State has been well documented in recent days. His fiscally conservative and anti-federal government stances, plus his non-interventionist foreign policies, attract a motley crew of supporters, from the young to the elderly, the most liberal to the ultra conservative.

Fans of the libertarian iconoclast tell The Texas Tribune they are devoted to the man, not to the party. In that sense, the candidate who threatens his runner-up status — former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — will have to rest his hopes on the undecided voters. According to the UNH Survey Center, about 29 percent of New Hampshire voters polled in its latest survey have not settled on a candidate.

“There’s still some volatility out there, which could produce a surprise,” Scala said. “I don’t know that [Paul has] got a second burst of energy that would drive him forward in the polls. One thing he does have to his advantage is he’s one of only three candidates on the air consistently right now.”

The 76-year-old’s campaign is well-financed and much more organized compared to his last run here in 2008. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he’s running in a state that has a libertarian streak — and coveted status as a proportional primary.

“I think his goal is, one, to accumulate delegates,” Scala said. “But New Hampshire is never about delegates. It’s really about media and surviving to the final round.”

And the longer the oldest man in the GOP field stays in the race, the more time he will have to participate in future debates and espouse his strict constitutionalist views before a nationwide audience.

“I think his plan or his goal is to be a persistent presence — a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment,” Scala said. 

The Tribune's Thanh Tan is in New Hampshire this week. She's been talking to local voters in restaurants and at Paul's public events. Watch the video below to find out what they told her about the Texas congressman's efforts to get their vote.

Campaign organizers say Paul and his family plan to visit polling places throughout the day. Stops are planned in Nashua, Manchester, Derry, Bedford and Merrimack. They declined the Tribune's request for specific locations and times after a Monday breakfast event at a Manchester diner attracted more media than they had anticipated.

A primary party is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at the Executive Court Banquet Facility in Manchester.

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