One of the questions we may be asking years from now is: was 2012 the year retail politics died in New Hampshire? With debates seemingly daily, social networking a part of people’s daily lives and so many media outlets, candidates, most notably Newt Gingrich, have been able to rise in the polls without shaking hands and kissing babies.
It is an often used adage: you can’t win New Hampshire without paying it respect. You’ve got to make time for face time. You’ve got to endure diner crowds and town hall meetings. Jon Huntsman often says New Hampshire is the window in which the rest of the country views the election. For years, the Union Leader was one of the loudest voices echoing that sentiment. But with its endorsement of Gingrich, who rarely visited the state, it embraced new politics. As political analyst Dean Spiliotes has said, all politics are increasingly national.
There is still some hope for the old-fashioned: a new 7 News/Suffolk University poll shows some growth in New Hampshire for former Ambassador to China and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Huntsman has relentlessly hit the pavement in the Granite State, having hosted more than 100 events. But there wasn’t much to show for it. This poll has him up four points to a total of 13, which has him behind only Mitt Romney (38 percent) and Gingrich (20 percent).
With just a few weeks to go before the primary, even Gingrich is making appearances in New Hampshire. Last week, he spent time visiting two technology companies (Dyn and Insight Technology) and then engaged in one of the highlights of the campaign: an hour-and-a-half debate/discussion with Huntsman on foreign affairs.
With the thick smell of maple syrup and bacon in the air, Texas Congressman Ron Paul made the rounds at Joey’s Diner in Amherst on Wednesday, Dec. 15. He shook patrons’ hands, paused to answer questions and posed for photographs ? all the while reporters and photographers danced in between tables and booths to catch the action. Paul spent about an hour at the diner, the patrons of which were specifically there to see Paul, courtesy of the Amherst Town Republicans.
“Most people in Congress don’t have a strong philosophy,” Paul told the diner crowd. “Their philosophy is to get reelected.”
Paul, who is very much in contention in Iowa and has remained steady in New Hampshire polling, has spent considerable time in the Granite State. After his visit at Joey’s Diner, Paul sprinted to Homestead Grocery and Deli in Amherst, and to downtown Milford to shake hands. Later that day Paul hosted a meet and greet in Manchester, where he took questions as well. And he also hosted a town hall meeting in Derry that night. That’s a full day of campaigning. But that’s not the type of campaigning that has exemplified this primary in New Hampshire. Huntsman has, Paul has at times, but Gingrich and even Romney to a certain extent haven’t put in the face-to-face, hand-shaking time that past presidents have.
Of course only three days after Paul’s visit to New Hampshire, there was another debate in Iowa, in which Michele Bachmann forcefully told Gingrich she was a serious candidate, Gingrich referred to himself as “zany” and Rick Perry invoked Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
In person, you get to size up candidates as individuals. At debates voters get to compare and contrast. There are big differences between Paul and Huntsman, just as there are differences between Romney and Gingrich.
It is one of these two who may very well be the Republican nominee and it is a decision that will likely be made long after the New Hampshire primary. A primary that may be losing a bit of its bite, no matter how much the state barks.
• Ron Paul was slated to be back in New Hampshire earlier this week, with stops in Manchester, Plaistow and Exeter scheduled.
• Mitt Romney recently released a campaign ad depicting him taking part in some good, old-fashioned retail politics in Milford. Visit http://mittromney.com/embed/video/milford-nh.
• Reports last week indicated that New Hampshire Speaker of the House William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, would endorse Newt Gingrich.
• State Sen. Ray White, R-Bedford, who recently announced he would not seek reelection in 2012, announced last week he would endorse Ron Paul. “Unlike the other candidates, Ron Paul has been singing the same tune for years ? going back to his first term in Congress,” White said in a statement. “He has understood and tried to warn us for decades about the economic crisis we now face, and he is the only candidate who understands the gravity of the situation.”
• Jon Huntsman was slated to be in New Hampshire this past weekend through Tuesday, Dec. 20, with stops in Deering, Meredith, Rochester, Exeter, Plaistow, Manchester and Rindge, including several town hall-style meetings.