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Lobbyists Plan Holiday Travel to Early Primary States

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other contenders will have plenty of lobbyists stumping for them in key states such as New Hampshire and Iowa in the next few weeks.

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Another lobbyist who plans to head out on the campaign trail said that it’s more difficult to get K Streeters to Iowa than New Hampshire because the Hawkeye State caucus is just three days into the new year. New Hampshire’s primary is set for Jan. 10.

For Gingrich, whose own D.C.-based consulting work has been a subject for attacks on the trail, there is a sense that K Street imports on the ground in early contests could backfire.

“How does that look when a planeload of lobbyists show up in Iowa or New Hampshire for their candidates?” a Republican lobbyist and Gingrich supporter asked. “I think Romney has more of the Washington establishment who might be willing to go out and do it.”

Other Republican lobbyists said they will do their part without leaving their home base.

“I have no intention of going to Iowa or New Hampshire; I live in Syracuse, and it’s cold enough there,” said former Rep. Jim Walsh, now a lobbyist at K&L Gates. “It’s certainly good to be involved in the day to day of the campaign, but I can do that from here.”

Instead, the New York Republican is busy trying to recruit more than 100 former lawmakers to publicly support Romney before Jan. 3, the day of the Iowa caucus.

K Street volunteers on the campaign trail pay their own travel expenses and have to use vacation time, and many veteran lobbyists say it’s difficult to leave work and home obligations behind for retail politics.

And some GOP lobbyists think the time investment is better spent down the road, when the nominee is tapped and the partisan infighting is over. Once the nominee is chosen, Shawn Smeallie of American Continental Group said he expects about six of his firm’s 20 lobbyists to hit the trail.

“We send people to campaigns as we get closer to the election; we don’t really do much in the primary,” he said. “I walked doors for [George W.] Bush in Pennsylvania and did that for about three hours and said, ‘This is a younger man’s game.’”

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