Romney wasted no time veering from Huckabee, whom he blistered in Iowa, to McCain, whom he cited in New Hampshire as the personification of dysfunctional Washington.

"I think there is a strong movement in this country to reject Washington and to look for change," he said in Portsmouth. "And I think I represent change better than other people in this contest."

As did Huckabee, Romney cited illegal immigration as an issue mishandled by Washington's politicians. His aides said that McCain's support for a comprehensive solution to illegal immigration -- once complimented by Romney and now derided by him as amnesty --would be a major target in New Hampshire.

McCain, however, focused sharply on the reformer approach that marked his 2000 run.

"People that live and work inside the Beltway and make lots of money, in certain ways, they don't like the reformer," he said. "I understand that."

Overshadowed in the tumult was Giuliani, the national front-runner until Huckabee's recent run up the polls. In a chilly hall in Salem, he vowed to lower taxes if elected president.

"Somebody has got to go to Washington that gets control of Washington," he said. "I got control of New York."

His first questioner brought him back to the reality.

"Congratulations on New York," he told Giuliani. "But you're in New Hampshire now."

maria.laganga@latimes.com

seema.mehta@latimes.com

cathleen.decker@latimes.

Times staff writers Michael Finnegan, Dan Morain, Peter Nicholas and Maeve Reston contributed to this report.