For now, the GOP candidates are focusing on Iowa caucuses
But once Iowa is over, said New Hampshire primary advocate Jim Splaine, attention will return to the state primary, a far more important contest in deciding the next President.
';Realizing there is often a benefit to getting a bump out of Iowa, I think this year is just like in 2008 and Iowa is essentially irrelevant,'; said Splaine. He pointed to Sen. John McCain's successful Republican nomination bid four years ago, a candidate who focused on New Hampshire.
';Huckabee did very well and got the support of a lot of people in Iowa, but where did he go after then.';
Former Gov. John H. Sununu, who is supporting Romney, agreed that New Hampshire is the real kingmaker of the early contests.
';I've always said Iowans picks corn and New Hampshire picks Presidents,'; said Sununu.
But Dean Spiliotes, a New Hampshire-based presidential political analyst, said there has been a perception this election cycle that Iowa is getting more attention, probably because of the kind of Republican voters who are energized.
';It seems like Iowa has been more of a focus I think because it's skewed by the calendar and part of it is because it's a conservative Republican primary, which is just a better fit for Iowa,'; said Spiliotes. ';All the energy this time is in the Tea Party and movement crowds. They dominate the caucuses in Iowa, not the primary in New Hampshire.';
Dante Scala, associate professor in the department of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said if there is a slight decline in the attention New Hampshire has been getting, it's because the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts has been polling well here.
';This one has never really been close all year. We saw a (Newt) Gingrich surge at Thanksgiving, but even now, Romney has had a big lead all year,'; said Scala. ';I think there was a sense New Hampshire was Romney's and I think it's tended to have a dampening effect on the primary compared to ';08 where (Barack) Obama was serious about New Hampshire all year and on the Republican side we had a free-for-all with McCain versus Romney.';
The most noticeable candidate in the state this week is Huntsman, who kicked off his ';Restoring Trust'; tour on Wednesday in Pelham and will be campaigning in the state's 10 counties until Jan. 10. Huntsman is not campaigning in Iowa at all and has banked on a better than expected performance in New Hampshire to boost his national profile.
';In the last few weeks we have had standing-room-only events across the state and been endorsed by three major daily newspapers. The momentum is building, and we are well-positioned to finish strong,'; said campaign spokesman Michael Levoff.
';A better than market expectation performance in New Hampshire will generate a head of steam that will propel us through the next early contest states.';
Sununu was quick to point out that Romney has invested much time in New Hampshire as well, including a bus tour last week.
';I think it's pretty clear some candidates have focused on New Hampshire. Mitt Romney has been in New Hampshire a significant number of days. I think Jon Huntsman spent a lot time in New Hampshire,'; said Sununu.
';The most notable thing I've pointed out since November, when he received the endorsement of the Union Leader, Gingrich has only been in New Hampshire a few pieces of a few days,'; Sununu said.
Also on the trail is businessman Steve Forbes, campaigning on behalf of Rick Perry.