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Back in New Hampshire, Romney keeps focus on Obama

Brian Snyder / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to the crowd in an overflow room during a campaign stop at the Tilton School in Tilton, N.H.

TILTON, NH -- Returning to the state where the latest polling shows him holding a commanding lead over his GOP rivals, Mitt Romney chose once again on Friday night to keep his laser focus on just one man, President Barack Obama. At a dinner event here, the former Massachusetts Governor said the president would be wrong to claim credit for today's new unemployment numbers dipping to 8.5 percent.

"I'm glad it's doing a little better now. I'm sure the president will want to take credit for it -- for any improvement," Romney said. "Guess what? He doesn't deserve it because everything that's been done has hurt this recovery, everything done by this president."

In a statement released earlier this afternoon, Romney said "of course its good news" that the rate had dropped, but he would refuse to accept the "new normal" of unemployment above eight percent.

The latest NBC/Marist poll, released tonight, shows Romney leading in the Granite State by a 20-point margin over Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Romney, who knows something about evaporating poll numbers after his eleventh-hour loss to Mike Huckabee in the 2008 Iowa caucus, urged his supporters not to grow complacent but to continue working hard on his behalf through Tuesday's primary.

"People in New Hampshire expect you to work hard, to earn it.  And we're in a real battle right now.  I know some pollsters say I'm doing real well. let me tell you, those polls, they can just disappear over night," Romney said. "What you say to a pollster is a bit like going on a date. It’s like, well, I might try this but you know, getting married, that's something else. So we need to make sure you're working real hard and I'll keep working real hard."

Friday night, working hard in New Hampshire consisted of giving a speech, taking questions from a handful of audience members here, and serving spaghetti to an overflow crowd at the Tilton school, just miles from Romney's summer home in the lakes region here. Tomorrow, Romney will hold a morning rally with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who also joined him tonight, before attending two back-to-back debates Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"Why even stop?" Rommey joked of the debates, whose start times are separated by just 12 hours. "Why not go right straight through?"

As the Iowa winner and strong front-runner here, Romney is likely to find himself the target of his opponents sharpest barbs in the upcoming debates, but tonight he suggested when the primary process is over, any damage done to "bruised egos" ought to be shaken off by the nominee - whoever he is.

"By the way I know that in the process of the primary in the primary process we’ll be going after each other, as someone said long ago politics ain’t bean bags," Romney said. "We'll be going back and forth and when this is all over we ought to be able to hug.