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N.H. Craves 2012 Action as Campaigns Bloom Late

Steve Peoples/Roll Call
Ovide Lamontagne, among New Hampshire’s most powerful conservative voices, said he and the rest of the state’s Republican activists were anxious to begin the 2012 cycle.

“I know that I personally have reached out to the Palin operation to get her up here ... to do a fundraiser. I never heard anything back,” Mike Dennehy, who served in 2007 as national political director for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), told Roll Call while munching on a pastrami sandwich at Cheers, a cozy restaurant a few blocks from the New Hampshire State House. “I know other organizations have reached out to her and never hear anything back. Not even a ‘thank you for the request.’ It just leads me to believe that she’s not interested in New Hampshire, or she’s not interested in running for president.”

The top elected official in New Hampshire’s largest city, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, considers himself “a free agent” this cycle, having backed McCain in 2008. Santorum and Pawlenty have visited his third-floor City Hall office multiple times so far, but Gatsas hasn’t heard a peep from the Palin camp.

He advised candidates against intentionally skipping New Hampshire, a move that some think Palin will make if she decides to seek the presidency.

“I think anybody that makes that mistake again would be silly,” Gatsas said, referring to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s fourth-place finish in 2008, often described as a “drive-by” effort.

At least one person thinks Palin could be an instant contender in New Hampshire, regardless of when she jumps into the race. It’s all about name recognition, according to former Rep. Jeb Bradley, now the state Senate Majority Leader.

“If Gov. Palin decided she was going to run and wanted to invest the resources in New Hampshire, she’d be a credible candidate right away. There’s no question about that,” Bradley told Roll Call last week from the confines of his new State House office as the temperature outside reached a high of 6 degrees. “Tim Pawlenty has got to fight for name recognition. He doesn’t have it yet. He’s going to have to live in New Hampshire. Palin can live on Fox and get name recognition. And Mitt already has it.”

The polling suggests Bradley may be right. And while Romney may be the early frontrunner, the race for second place is wide open. The conservative base thinks so, anyway.

Never Too Early Here

Carol McGuire could help play kingmaker next February.

She was among a group of conservatives in 2008 who backed Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a tea party favorite and libertarian who was popular in New Hampshire even before the tea party existed.
A straw poll taken earlier in the month suggests his supporters could play a critical role in the primary. While Romney dominated, getting 35 percent in a poorly attended vote during a recent meeting of the state Republican Committee, Paul earned 11 percent.

While he isn’t expected to be a significant factor in 2012, some local Republicans said Paul’s former supporters could be.

“It’s a wide open field,” McGuire, a state Representative from Epsom, said while sipping a glass of red wine at a Concord reception for the Merrimack County Republican Committee last week. She came to hear Pawlenty’s stump speech but said she didn’t know much about him.

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