"He’s soft on guns, soft on life…the only thing he’s strong on is his own voice."

Nevertheless, Perry’s campaign professes optimism in the face of multiple state polls showing Romney holding dominant leads. Staffers direct me to a recent WMUR poll, which put Romney ahead of his closest rival (Herman Cain) by 25 points. “The numbers look great for Mitt, but if you look a little closer, you’ll notice that 89 percent of respondents say they’re not ‘dead set’ on their pick,” an aide notes. “[Romney] has been here for five years. Why is his support so soft?”

Prior to the Dartmouth debate, the Romney campaign got a boost by unveiling a marquee endorsement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Perry’s New Hampshire team seems neither surprised, nor impressed, by the alliance. “Endorsements only go so far,” Young says. “Policy positions and results matter more.” Another staffer shrugs, “Romney and Christie are both Northeastern moderates. Christie could end up being a liability [for Romney], actually. He’s soft on guns, soft on life…the only thing he’s strong on is his own voice.”

Perry aides say they’re not interested in sweating day-to-day horserace developments, and vow not to fall victim to media pressure. Some pundits wondered if Perry would reveal his own big-name endorsement to counter Romney’s Christie nod. Others have asked why Perry hasn’t released a specific jobs plan yet. “We’re rolling out the features of our campaign on our own terms,” I’m told. “We don’t need the media telling us how to run our campaign – no offense to your profession.”