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In battle for conservatives, Santorum goes blue collar, Gingrich blue blood

UDPATED AT 6:10 PM ET

SALEM, N.H. and NASHUA, N.H. -- If the battle for conservatives in this state is between Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, then they’re doing it in very different ways -- both in style and setting.

“When people say, the GOP is for big business, I double over and laugh,” Santorum said before a couple hundred people at the Derry-Salem Elks Lodge. “We’re the party of the little guy.”

Contrast that with Gingrich’s event at the Nashua Country Club speaking before a more tony, blazer-and-tie crowd.

He touted his hand in developing “supply-side economic” theory before members of the Rotary Club of Nashua while facing windows that overlooked a golf course.

Santorum, donning his signature sweater vest and stonewashed jean, used no podium and spoke at length before taking questions. He answered just six in an hour-and-a-half because of his lengthy answers, which often meandered far from the central points of the questions.

Gingrich, wearing a dark suit and red tie -- accompanied by wife Callista in a formal suit -- spoke from a podium, but only for about five minutes. He then moved quickly from question to question in an event that lasted about half an hour.

Santorum struck populist chords with talk of manufacturing and textile mills. "We’re going to give small-town America the chance to come back," he said before deriding migration to big cities: “Our basic values will look more like Barack Obama" if it continues.

Gingrich stuck to generic talking points about “Saul Alinsky” radicalism and went deep into policy weeds during questions, rattling off one proposal after another.

Lots of undecided voters
At the Santorum event, voters were mostly split between Santorum and Gingrich. At Gingrich’s event, the vast majority of the half a dozen or so interviewed by First Read were actually for front-runner Mitt Romney. Romney often attracts a more buttoned-up, country club crowd.

Just one person at Gingrich's event said they were considering voting for Gingrich.

Shelly Sousa of Salem said she saw Gingrich Friday night, described him as “intelligent,” has “thought-out policies,” and understands “history.” But she likes Santorum’s “devotion to family.” She’s torn.

“I’m going to pray on it,” she said.

Kim Litman from Derry said she, too, was trying to decide between Gingrich and Santorum. “I was impressed,” she said of Santorum after his event. But “I’m concerned; does he have enough knowledge as Gingrich?”

Earl and Marsha Dunbar from Loudon said they, too, were trying to decide between Gingrich and Santorum, though Earl also said he was considering Jon Huntsman.

“He was so boring in the debates,” he said. “I want to see him in person.”

Earl said he saw a measure of hypocrisy in how Gingrich has complained about Super PACs.

“He says he’s not part of the PACs and then turns around and does it himself,” Earl said. “I see it as being two-faced and plastic.” 

Now, he’s leaning toward Santorum.

In Nashua, Mark Nash from Hudson said he’s voting for Gingrich.

“Newt’s a very aggressive guy,” he said. Of front-runner Mitt Romney, he echoed a point of New Hampshire pride.

“It bothered me that people in Massachusetts liked him,” Nash said with a wry smile. “He was a Massachusetts-type person. We don’t like people from Massachusetts. We try to make it a little more conservative here.”

But that wasn’t the prevailing opinion with the Rotary Club members.

Betty Hall, who’s lived and voted in New Hampshire since 1953, said she is voting for Romney and made that decision “a long time ago.” She cited that he’s a “business man,” he’s a “good manager,” and “hasn’t been in Washington” like other candidates.

Gloria Fields of Hudson echoed that.

“I made up my mind when he first announced he was running for president,” she said with a smile. “He’s a business man."

Robert Boisvert of Manchester said he's "50-50" between Romney and Gingrich. It's between who would be the "better candidate against Obama" and who is "closest to conservative values," he said.

He said he'll dive into notes and research tonight that he has been keeping.

"What I want," Boisvert said, "is for there to no longer be a Barack Obama."