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Haley Barbour Hosting N.H. ‘Dinner and Date Night’

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Lest there be any doubt that Haley Barbour (R) is taking a serious look at the presidency, Roll Call has learned that the Mississippi governor will be offering free food to prospective supporters in New Hampshire later in the month.

The “free dinner and date night,” to be co-hosted by the local conservative think tank Cornerstone, begins with dinner at the Puritan restaurant in Manchester the evening of Feb. 26. We hear, by the way, that the Puritan has delicious chicken fingers.

The party will then move to the Cinemagic Theater in Hooksett for a 9:30 p.m. showing of “The Genesis Code,” a movie that examines creationism and caught fire with cultural conservatives late last month. Republican operatives hosted viewing parties in New Hampshire and Iowa at that time.

Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle made headlines by attending the Iowa premiere. And she’s also slated to visit New Hampshire to promote the movie at the same Hooksett theater the day before Barbour’s visit. It’s unclear if Angle and Barbour will participate in any events together.

We couldn’t help but notice that the number to RSVP on the Barbour invitation is that of Sarah Dennehy, the wife of Mike Dennehy, a top Granite State GOP operative who served as Sen. John McCain’s national political director for part of the 2007 presidential contest.

Mike Dennehy, who has been handling PR related to the film, told Roll Call on Thursday that he has not committed to Barbour or any of the prospective 2012 challengers.

“Barbour simply made a donation to help promote the movie,” he said.

But Dennehy and others noted last month that Barbour has been sending signals that he’s becoming more focused on recruiting operatives in the first-in-the-nation primary state. While major questions remain over whether someone from the deep South can compete in northern New England, it appears that Barbour is trying to make the case. Everybody loves free food.

He has work to do, however, having earned just 1 percent in a WMUR Granite State poll of likely New Hampshire GOP primary voters released earlier this week.

For more from our At the Races politics blog, click here.

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