PETERBOROUGH, N.H. &

The Republican primary in New Hampshire next month is shaping up to be as frantic and unpredictable as the race in Iowa, though focusing on a different set of issues and cast of characters.




Mitt Romney remains a contender in both states. But while his closest rival in Iowa is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in New Hampshire, Arizona Sen. John McCain is closing in quickly. The increased competition, especially from McCain, is a blow to Romney, who has invested more time and resources in both states than his rivals.




A Boston Globe poll released yesterday shows the Arizona lawmaker threatening Romney's lead in New Hampshire, with 25 percent of voters supporting McCain compared with 28 percent for Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts and a part-time resident of New Hampshire. With the poll having a margin of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, that is a virtual dead heat and a dramatic shift from just a few weeks ago, when a Zogby poll put Romney 18 points ahead of McCain there.




At least some of McCain's success seems to have come at the expense of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has dropped in the New Hampshire polls from the mid 20s to the mid-teens.




The Globe poll shows changes in the Democratic camp as well, with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama gaining the support of 30 percent of voters, putting him neck and neck with the 28 percent supporting New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has led for much of the year. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards trailed with 14 percent of the vote, followed by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson with 7 percent.




But the upheaval in the Republican race is particularly notable, and is requiring Romney to attack his opponents differently in the two states. New Hampshire's Jan. 8 primary comes just after the Jan. — Iowa caucuses.




In Iowa, where voters pepper candidates with questions about illegal immigration, he last week defended his credentials as a social conservative, a strength of former Baptist minister Huckabee, the Republican front-runner in that state. Yet the next day, winding his way around snow-covered New Hampshire""where residents want to know about taxes and foreign policy""Huckabee was no more than an aside. Instead, Romney returned to his business roots, championing himself as a fiscal conservative against McCain.




"Senator McCain voted twice not to go along with the Bush tax cuts," he said during a house party in Tuftonboro, N.H., on Saturday. "He didn't want tax cuts for the rich. That sounds like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry."




In response to Romney's remarks, McCain senior adviser Mark Salter issued a statement blasting "Mitt Romney's bizarro world, in which everyone is guilty of his sins. He didn't support Ronald Reagan. He didn't support President Bush's tax cuts. He raised taxes in Massachusetts by $700 million."




Attacks on McCain are new to Romney's stump speeches""and for good reason. Sen. McCain has benefited from a string of recent endorsements, including Sen. Joe Lieberman and notable newspapers in the early states: the Des Moines Register in Iowa and the Boston Globe, the Portsmouth Herald and the New Hampshire Union Leader.




Romney hasn't been so fortunate. The Concord (N.H.) Monitor published an editorial yesterday urging voters against supporting Romney. The newspaper called him a "disquieting figure who sure looks like the next president and most surely must be stopped."




Kelly Drew, a 43-year-old from North Conway, N.H., hasn't decided between the two front-runners. Of Romney, she said, "I like his fiscal responsibility. I like his ideas on how to run a business and how to handle it." Of McCain, she said, "I like his views on how to handle the world's politics."




Trying to win over those undecided voters, Romney packed schools, town halls and restaurants throughout New Hampshire over the weekend. He mentioned McCain multiple times in every speech, slamming him for refusing to support the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. He will hit New Hampshire after Christmas as well, with stops in the Granite State planned for today and Thursday.




On Saturday, Romney interrupted the breakfast of Michael and Cheryl Brooks, of Madison, N.H. Brooks, who spent six months last year in Iraq, hasn't decided which candidate to support, but would like to meet all of them. "I don't know if you call me old-fashioned or pig-headed," said Brooks, "but I judge a man by his handshake." Romney's handshake, he said afterward, was "pretty genuine."




Bob Rowe, a 74-year-old from Rochester, N.H., attended a Romney event Friday evening, though he too is undecided. "If one of them steps out of line or does something that we strongly disagree with, then probably I would switch to the other man," he said.




Amy Chozick in Marshalltown, Iowa, contributed to this article.