The Granite State is used to visits from politicians with presidential aspirations. But rarely has the influx of out-of-towners meant more than it does this year for New Hampshire Republicans, who are fighting for a November sweep in the swing state that could play prominently in the balance of power on Capitol Hill.
At least 20 times so far this cycle, ambitious GOP governors and politicians from the likes of Mississippi, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Indiana have trekked to New Hampshire, boosting fundraising and credibility for local Republicans up and down the ballot, while also boosting their own following in a state that will host the nation’s first presidential primary in 2012.
On the Democratic side, with little competition expected for the White House, just a handful of big names have visited New Hampshire, which features tight races in both House seats and an open Senate seat, not to mention its first competitive gubernatorial race in six years.
The flood of ambitious Republicans, which has intensified since June, has generated tens of thousands of dollars for the local GOP infrastructure. And some say it has widened an enthusiasm gap among the always-unpredictable New Hampshire electorate, giving the GOP a distinct edge.
“All of the major candidates have been extremely helpful in allowing us to raise the resources we need to win in November and getting exposure for our candidates,” said Ryan Williams, spokesman for the New Hampshire Republican Party. “It also gets our supporters actively engaged before the Democrats. They’re excited to see national figures come to the state.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, for example, has visited New Hampshire five times since April, headlining three fundraisers for the state GOP and another for the Republican state House political action committee.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty also has made the 1,400-mile trip from St. Paul four times since last December, appearing at a March fundraiser for the Manchester City Committee, another in July for the state GOP and two more last week for Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Stephen and 1st Congressional district candidate Frank Guinta, who’s trying to unseat Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D).
Other multiple-trippers so far include Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.); Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is scheduled to make two stops next week, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune might not be far behind.
The Guinta camp reports that the Sept. 30 Pawlenty event — a luncheon at Manchester’s Radisson Hotel — raised $12,000. And perhaps more importantly, it attracted more than 80 people from across the sprawling district.
“We had half a dozen people come in from the far northern end of our district, Conway, more than two hours away,” Guinta spokesman Brett Bosse said. “It’s a win-win for everybody. If they see someone linked to a potential presidential run — Tim Pawlenty is in New Hampshire for Frank Guinta — it boosts our name ID and credibility. It also gives rumored candidates a good boost in the state.”
Indeed, Pawlenty announced to the Twitter world that he was speaking at the Guinta event as it was going on. That same day he tweeted that he was “talking economic issues with a small business owner from the Granite State.”
And the benefits for local Republicans extend beyond face time.