MANCHESTER, N.H. -- With mere weeks until New Hampshire's primary, Mitt Romney and the surging Newt Gingrich's campaigns are a study in contrast.
Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts and the longstanding favorite to win the nation's first primary, is a veteran operation whose structure is built squarely on experience, steadiness and New Hampshire roots.
Gingrich, whose campaign is in the midst of a renaissance since having been all but written off this summer, has the wind at his back. His Granite State operation is younger, entrepreneurial and free-wheeling.
With five weeks to go until the election, each campaign, which are separated by just a mile of light traffic on Manchester's main drag, share a single goal: buckle down, stay on top, survive and win.
Gingrich's campaign is trying to capitalize on newfound interest in his rebounding campaign, driven in part by an endorsement by the influential New Hampshire Union Leader. The campaignjust added its first paid staffer at the end of October; Over the past few weeks, Gingrich has hired eight staff members, opened a headquarters, and fanned out across the state to capitalize on new interest in Newt Gingrich.
State director Andrew Hemingway is hiring their first set of field staffers, and brought on Carli Dimino, who will serve as their Hispanic outreach coordinator. Dimino drove to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania on a whim because she just wanted to help in any way she could, Hemingway said.
Dimino's hiring is indicative of a larger organizational spirit, Hemingway explains. With little direction from their national staff, Hemingway and his team are rapidly building a structure to drive voter turnout on the Jan. 10 primary day.
The challenge for Gingrich is to build on the new momentum, and not allow it to dissipate by the primary.
One mile down Elm Street, the Romney campaign is keenly aware of the ongoing search for a "Mitt alternative" and is taking nothing for granted. The memory of losing the lead ahead of the 2008 primary is still fresh in their memory. This weekend, Romney himself and his surrogate-in-chief Tim Pawlenty will launch a major push for supporters using their well-oiled grassroots operation that the campaign calls "second to none."
"We have an even stronger grassroots organization in 2011 than we did in 2007 and we've been able to retain the vast majority of the support we were able to build in 2007," spokesperson Ryan Williams told NBC News.
This Saturday at an event entitled "Earn It with Mitt," Romney's campaign says they will knock on 5,000 doors, make 12,000 volunteer phone calls and send 500 volunteers out across the state. According to Williams, Romney has visited all 10 counties and done 17 town hall-style meetings while his campaign has knocked on 26,000 doors and made 200,000 supporter calls to date.
Romney's advisers have the benefit of experience when it comes to running for president. Their 2012 campaign is leaner than the 2008 operation; Romney himself is deployed selectively, and he's focused the bulk of his effort on winning here, where he maintains a home. They hope an intense ground game will help stave off a reprise of 2008.
"We have focused on running a traditional grassroots New Hampshire campaign," said Romney's New Hampshire state director Jason McBride.
This Saturday, McBride explained, is "one of the many steps that Mitt Romney, the campaign, and its volunteers and supporters will take to earn the support of the voters in the run up to the New Hampshire primary."
Gingrich's campaign, by contrast, cites signs of raw enthusiasm in the former Speaker's candidacy as a sign of their rise.
"Stuff is just happening by themselves," Hemingway told NBC News. "You can't buy that. it doesn't matter what your organization -- that is the type of passion that's been tapped into.... It's kind of taken on a life of its own and it is kind of like a fire hose. But I don't think we are drinking from it, we are trying to point it in the right direction."
But there are growing pains, too, associated with the campaign's works to quickly become operational. Two weeks ago, Gingrich's campaign submitted a list of delegates scrawled in sloppy handwriting to the Secretary of State's office and opted not to fill out the maximum 20 delegate spots and 20 alternates. Although only 12 delegates are required by the Republican National Committee and Gingrich's campaign surpassed that, the campaign's style was interpreted as messy and disorganized.
In response, New Hampshire communications director Matt LeDuc sent out a rapid-fire statement yesterday. This morning, he followed up by sending supporters an unlikely list of direct email addresses for staffers in the state, including personal email contacts for a couple of their most senior advisors.
"We want to make sure you know how to reach us, anytime," LeDuc wrote. "So go ahead, email us. We're probably up working anyway."
Hemingway believes the bumps and bruises comes with the territory, and he is confident they will cement a base of supporters to help them fan out across the state that is critical to Romney's path to the nomination.
"This is what I tell my staff every day: we can talk about all the national polls that we want, but the reality is that we are 10 points behind, in the fourth quarter and we just have to put our heads down and win over the next person that we talk to," Hemingway said.
But winning against a well-organized Romney campaign machine in the midst of such a new surge will not be easy.
"Probably this time last month, the interest in the Gingrich campaign in this state was probably something akin to a drip that was coming out of a kitchen faucet. Now it's something that's akin to a firehose going off," said Rich Killion, an unaffiliated New Hampshire-based political consultant who previously supported Tim Pawlenty.
"Even with 40 days, we have a lifetime til this race gets off. Mitt Romney is strong but New Hampshire is always tough ground to close on. "[Voters] decide late and they decide late by habit. Newt Gingrich is being given an opportunity to audition to be the alternative," Killion said. "Others have failed at this becase of inability or inaction."