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.
Asked about Romney, McGuire said she’s not “inclined to be in his camp,” largely because of Massachusetts’ health care overhaul under his watch.
“He’s got a solid bloc. People know him,” McGuire said of Romney. “But a lot of people who are more conservative-leaning are looking for somebody else.”
Indeed, Lamontagne, a 2008 Romney backer, has yet to settle on a contender.
“The activists who have come of age in this last cycle are very energized now about the presidential process, and they’re not committed,” he said while glancing at the glossy menu inside Manchester’s famed Red Arrow Diner last week.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.