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As New Hampshire waits, GOP battle plays out in TV ads

The presidential circus -- candidates, campaigns, trailing reporters -- is still more than a day away from the state that will hold the nation’s first primary, but that doesn’t mean New Hampshire has ceded the commander-in-chief contest to Iowa.

Signs touting the favorites adorn lawns and businesses, candidate ads are badgering television viewers, and the state’s powerhouse station, ABC affiliate WMUR, is telling the state’s residents that -- sorry, Iowa -- “it all starts right here in New Hampshire.”

Ads promoting Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were most prominent on the airwaves Monday and offer an instructive distinction between the appeals—and approaches—of the two candidates.

Romney appears before a giant American flag, promising in a lushly filmed pitch to bring America back from dismal circumstances that he implies are wholly President Obama’s fault. If not exactly Ronald Reagan’s optimistic “morning in America” vibe, it at least suggests Romney is the only vehicle to make the dawn rise sunnily again.

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“It’s time for this pessimistic president to step aside,” Romney says in the ad, which closes with a photograph of Romney and his wife, Ann, in full Ronnie-and-Nancy togetherness.

Paul plays not on America’s reach for optimism but on its anger. His ad, airing repeatedly throughout the day, opens with the blunt dismissals of a succession of visibly irked Paul supporters: “America is in trouble. Washington is a disgrace.”

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is described as a “flip-flopper,” and he is shown in an old clip advocating a stimulus plan. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker whose post-official years were spent consulting for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, among others, is described as guilty of “serial hypocrisy.”

Paul, in contrast, is described as never having voted for a tax increase. And his ad includes subtle suggestions that voters of all stripes could find faith with him. The voice criticizing Romney is that of Fox News anchor Chris Wallace; praising Paul in a television clip as “so consistent from the very beginning” is liberal Bill Press, former head of the California Democratic Party.

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Ironically, given the man Paul would like to replace, the congressman’s ads echo a line of Obama’s much maligned by Republicans, who in 2008 contended it suggested a Messiah complex on the part of the Democrat.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for,” Obama told his supporters nearly four years ago on a primary election night.

“Ron Paul is the one we have been looking for,” the 2012 candidate’s ads conclude.


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