Discuss as:

Expectations game: Gingrich wants 'respectable' finish, hopes Romney doesn't break 50

MERRIMACK, N.H. -- Newt Gingrich spent primary day in New Hampshire trying to meet voters at polling locations -- despite hoards of reporters all around.

“I thought the scrum we were just in reminded me of Mardi Gras at its peak,” Gingrich told NBC News inside his bus outside the first polling location he visited in Manchester’s Ward 1. “The crowd was so big and so intense and several people fell over. I was worried people were going to get hurt, which would not be fun.”

“It was wild,” added Callista, Gingrich’s wife.

The Gingriches visited three locations -- in Manchester, Bedford, and Merrimack -- canceling what was supposed to be their fourth and final stop in Hollis.

Gingrich, who has not been polling in the top three in the state, said he has really enjoyed his trip to the Granite State.

“It is exhilarating. It is hard work, but it is really very exciting,” Gingrich said, adding that he doesn’t know exactly where he will finish when the polls close tonight.

“My hope is we will do well enough to be respectable, that we will be part of a group, and then we will go down ultimately to South Carolina and we will start differentiating,” he said. “My other hope frankly is that Romney doesn’t break 50%.”

The former Speaker has started to try and draw a more distinct contrast between himself and Romney, focusing on the difference between a “Reagan Conservative and Massachusetts Moderate.” This contrast, which will be pushed much more heavily in South Carolina, the campaign believes, has helped slow Romney’s momentum in New Hampshire.

"I think this campaigning for the last six days, I think everybody who's been here has felt a shift in mood, a shift in crowd size, the shift in media coverage. You know Romney came here as a victorious person, and I think he is clearly limping at this point,” Gingrich told network television reporters aboard his campaign bus.

Both of the Gingriches, who will spend the rest of the evening packing for South Carolina, say they are looking forward to the road ahead, but are grateful for the time they spent in New Hampshire -- no matter the outcome.

“We’ll see tonight what the vote is," Gingrich said, "but the popular reaction of people who come up to us everywhere -- it’s really very, very encouraging."