John DiStaso's Granite Status: Romney lands the Scammans in key NH endorsements
THE SCAMMANS SIGN ON. Two former key New Hampshire House members who backed Rudy Giuliani in 2008 are opting this time around for Mitt Romney.
The Granite Status has learned that former New Hampshire House Speaker Doug Scamman and his wife, former state Rep. Stella Scamman will be announced later today as Romney supporters.
This news from the Romney camp answers a report in Mother Jones today that Romney's 2008 state steering committee chairman, businessman Bruce Keough, has decided against supporting Romney's likely 2012 campaign.
Keough, who ran for governor in 2002, losing in a GOP primary, has been under the radar, politically, for most of the past decade, focusing mostly on his private business interests.
Keough did emerge last year as an early supporter of fellow moderate Bill Binnie's U.S. Senate campaign. Binnie in the primary finished behind Kelly Ayotte and Ovide Lamontagne.
The Scamman are also generally viewed as moderate Republicans, yet they were conservative Lamontagne's state co-chairs in the 2010 Senate primary race.
Doug Scamman served 13 terms in the House, including three as speaker _ 1987-1988, 1989-1990 and 2005-2006. While he was the choice of the GOP caucus in his first two runs for speaker, Democratic House members were instrumental in his election for his final term as speaker over the late Rep. Michael Whalley.
Scamman also was former Gov. Steve Merrill's budget director from 1993 to 1996 and was administration director at the state Department of Transportation from 1997 to 2003.
Stella Scamman served in the House for three terms, from 2003 through 2006 and from 2009 and 2010.
The Scammans decided to retire from the House and did not seek reelection in 2010.
The Scammans' Bittersweet Farm in Stratham has been the site of many Republican events, including a 2004 fair-like rally that drew 3,600 for former President George W. Bush. The elder President George Bush also stopped occasionally at the farm.
Noting their support for Giuliani in 2008, Doug Scamman said, "It was a close call for us this time. It's a different time now and the governor's experience of being a leader in business and in government is what we need in the White House now. I think he will do a good job."
Stella Scamman said she and her husband are not concerned about Romney's signing of a Massachusetts health care law with an individual mandate, dubbed "Romneycare."
"We feel the health issue is a state issue," she said. "Each state should handle that issue on their own."
Romney's camp today pointed out that while it may have lost Keough, it's now gained the Scammans from the Giuliani camp, former Executive Councilor Ruth Griffin, who backed Mike Huckabee in 2008, and state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and Executive Councilor Ray Burton, neither of whom made endorsements in the 2008 GOP presidential primary.
Earlier updates and the full April 28 Granite Status follow. A new Granite Status will appear on Thursday in the New Hampshire Union Leader with a full, unabridged version here on UnionLeader.com.
TUESDAY UPDATE: LYNCH STILL RULES. A new WMUR Granite State Poll on Tuesday shows Gov. John Lynch maintaining a high approval rating while more Granite Staters, particularly Democrats, are concerned about the direction in which the state is heading.
Surveying 504 New Hampshire adults between April 15 and 26, the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found that 68 percent approve of the overall job Lynch is doing as governor, while 23 percent disapprove and 8 percent are neutral or do not know. The poll's margin of error is 4.4 percent.
In February, 67 percent approved, and 23 percent disapproved, of Lynch's performance.
Since he became governor in 2005, Lynch's approval rating has never dipped below 56 percent in a UNH-conducted survey.
In the new poll, Lynch receives a favorable grade from a majority, 53 percent, of Republicans, while 66 percent of independents and 84 percent of Democrats approve of his performance.
His overall personal favorability rating is 67 percent, while only 17 percent have an unfavorable view of him personally.
The poll also showed that 54 percent of Granite Staters believe the state is heading in the right direction, while 39 percent say the state is "seriously off on the wrong track."
That's down from February, when 65 percent said the state was on the right track and 39 percent said it was on the wrong track.
The change came mostly from Democrats, 45 percent of whom now believe the state is on the wrong track, as compared to only 20 percent in February.
Pollster Andrew Smith attributed the change to Democratic concern about the priorities of the Republican-led state Legislature.
While most Granite Staters apparently believe the state is going in the right direction, in a poll released earlier this week, UNH found that only 32 percent of Granite Staters believe the country as a whole is headed in the right direction and 63 percent said it is heading in the wrong direction.
"That disparity has been there for a long time," said Smith. "People obviously think the state is doing much better than the nation as a whole. For one thing, the economy here is much better than it is in much of the rest of the country."
(Earlier updates and the full April 28 Granite Status follow.)
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THURSDAY UPDATE: RAND HITS MITT AND THE DONALD. With his father on the verge of running for President, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul today questioned the Republican credentials of potential adversaries Mitt Romney and Donald Trump during a visit to New Hampshire.
In an interview, Paul, an eye surgeon by profession and staunch conservative by ideology, said government-mandated health care programs are "an anathema" to basic constitutional principles.
"Romneycare,'" Paul said, "was such a bad model for 'Obamacare.' Once you allow that the state is going to mandate and decide what insurance has to sell, it really is such an anathema to capitalism and to freedom and individual liberty, that I don't know how a good solid Republican conservative could sign a piece of legislation like that."
Paul said it will be an albatross for Romney during the nomination campaign "if I have anything to say about it."
Romney, Paul said, "has to explain why he supported that, and it's not a passing issue, it's one-sixth of our economy. He could say the Democrats made it worse, but he signed the bill.
"It's a horrific piece of legislation that presaged what we got from 'Obamacare,'" Paul said.
Paul's father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has launched an exploratory committee to make a second run for the GOP presidential nomination.
After Trump took credit this week for President Barack Obama's decision to make his birth certificate public, Rand Paul today jokingly called on Trump to produce his "long-form Republican registration certificate."
While some conservatives still question Obama's birthplace, Paul said he is not among them and called it a non-issue and distraction.He said his dispute with Obama is entirely philosophical.
"I see this President as being the most anti-business, anti-energy , anti-capitalism, you-name-it, President we've every had," said Paul.With Trump now raising questions about Obama's education bona fides, Paul had harsh words.
Trump, Paul said, "can talk about the President's education, and yet he claims to have such great economic education himself and to be so smart and so rich. But he's going to talk down the oil prices by telling OPEC they just can't charge that much? I wonder what school of economics teaches that as a way to bring down prices."
"It's an economically foolish notion to think that we can call up Saudi Arabia and tell them to charge less," said Paul.
Paul said "the complete objective truth" is that his father "really has a shot" to win the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 because he name recognition has skyrocketed over the past four years. He said his father will not be excluded from debates or "marginalized," as he was in 2008, and he noted his father is drawing huge crowds on college campuses.
Rand Paul said his father, at age 75, still bikes "14 to 15 miles a day," while "the rest of us struggle in the Texas wind try to keep up with him."
Paul spoke to the Republican committees of Merrimack and Cheshire counties Thursday.
On Friday, he is scheduled to appear at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. He will speak on "Return to Prosperity: Overcoming America's Addiction to Debt," at a breakfast attended by about 180 students, faculty and staff, as well as community members.
Paul said it's unclear if any conditions will be placed on a vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling, but he said, "I can't vote to give them any more money. They need to prove to me they're going a good job with the money we've given them already."
He said if the debt ceiling is raised by $1 trillion, "it will be gone by November. That's pretty scary and I don't think we've done anything significant to change things."
Paul said the nation should not default on its debt, but he believes the nation should pay its debt "out of our proceeds.
"We could spend what comes in and pay interest Social Security, soldiers wages, war funding," he said. "There's a lot of stuff that wouldn't get paid for. What if we went two or three months with nothing else getting paid for? I think we'd figure out what to do."
Like his father, Rand Paul is a key Tea Party leader, and he said the movement will continue to be a "driving influence" as long as the nation's debt is not dealt with.
One of only four members of a Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. Senate, Paul said most Senate Republicans talk a conservative talk but rarely take serious action.
"Forty-seven Republican senators signed on to support the balanced budget amendment," he said. "But then when I ask the to cut $100 billion or $200 billion, nobody signs onto it. In the abstract, we're for a balanced budget and a conservative constitutional government, but when it comes to actually buckling down and asking whether we can get rid of the Department of Education, nobody is out there with me on that one. Or very few.
"As Republicans," Paul said, "we have to decide who we are before we can beat Obama. If we're for something like 'No Child Left Behind,' we can't before shrinking the government because we're for doubling the size of the Department of Education. Same thing with Medicare Part D, the largest entitlement program."
Health care, he said, "would be a lot simpler the less insurance you have," said Paul. "The only people in my practice who care about the price are those who have no insurance or have a high deductible."
He said paying day-to-day doctor bills out of pocket would prompt price competition and prices would be driven down, "and in the end you'd have lower premiums."
Paul said he opposes U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's budget because he said the Ryan plan does not balance the budget until 2040.
Ryan's budget adds $7 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, "and I don't that our country can stand increasing deficit by $1 trillion a year over the next 10 years."
(The full April 28 Granite Status follows.)
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HE'LL DO THE DANCE. If Donald Trump runs for President, and it seems he's headed that way, he says that he'll get into the trenches and do the retail politicking that's absolutely necessary to succeed in the first-primary state.
The question is, will he do it because he wants to or because he feels he has to?
"I am very well-known," he said in an interview yesterday. "I have one of the top shows on television and I've been around for a long time as a very successful guy.
"But the country is in such trouble that I'm willing to do it (person-to-person retail politics) for the country," he said.
"I'm giving up a great life if I decide to do this. But yeah, I'll do it.
"I'm hearing more and more it's something I have to do. I'll do what's necessary."
But he also said, "I love the people. I met wonderful people in New Hampshire today. They're us. They're workers."
Trump separately told Union Leader reporter Dan Tuohy the New Hampshire primary "is very important. It's a great primary. It's been there for a long time.
"I love the people of New Hampshire and I think I'll give you a big surprise sometime prior to June," he said.
Trump made a grandiose entrance at the Port City Air hangar at Pease International Tradeport.
Moments after he landed in his black helicopter, emblazoned with "Trump" on each side, a huge garage-like door opened on the side of the hangar and in walked Trump, accompanied by aides, security personnel and a few state Republican officials.
He immediately began to talk excitedly about having forced President Barack Obama to release his birth certificate and then said Obama should release his educational records.
Later during a lengthy news conference, he touched on oil prices, the U.S. trade deficit with China and U.S. strategy in Libya.
Trump then headed to the Roundabout Diner at the Portsmouth Traffic Circle, where he quietly met with GOP strategist Alicia Preston and former state Rep. Fran Wendelboe and then spoke with patrons.
He toured Wilcox Industries in Newington, which manufactures defense-related products for the Pentagon.
His long, black limo then pulled up to a private fundraiser for the state GOP at the 100 Club on Market Street in downtown Portsmouth, where 24 people, including businessman Bill Binnie, activists Matt Mayberry and Jerry DeLemus, each paid $1,000 to lunch with and listen to Trump in an exclusive setting overlooking the Piscataqua River.
(Thursday Update: An earlier version of the Granite Status reported that U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta also paid $1,000 to attend the event. Guinta spokesman J. Mark Powell said Guinta was invited by the party to attend the event and did not pay $1,000. Powell said Guinta has attended other events with other potential candidates and has not endorsed Donald Trump.)
Trump then met privately with state GOP chair Jack Kimball before taking a downtown walk.
And yes, after being officially scratched, Ken Smith's Maine-ly New Hampshire gift shop was among the stores Trump visited before heading to the Dover landmark, Newick's Lobster House.
Jack Newick, the patriarch of Newick's restaurants, told Union Leader reporter Tuohy, "He's sure interesting."
Newick has greeted numerous candidates and would-be candidates over the years. He mentioned Dick Gephardt, Mike Huckabee, and his favorite, John Glenn.
Doug Call, a retiree from Barrington, told Tuohy he'd support Trump if he announced.
He said that if he had a chance to speak with Trump, he'd tell him, " Don't let the republic down. Your country needs you.
"Don't tease us and go home now."
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NH "GOT ME STARTED." Calling New Hampshire "a very special place," Trump recalled coming to the state in the late 1980s "as a favor to a friend of mine" to give a speech on "success."
"But it's a place I've always liked and been here many times.
"So, in a way, New Hampshire sort of got me started; it's sort of interesting."
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TAKES ON MITT. Trump took a not-so-veiled shot at Mitt Romey, citing a recent poll that showed Trump "doing very well, and, frankly, a man who lives in New Hampshire is not doing so well, and that amazes me. He lives here."
Romney has a home in Wolfeboro.
A survey by Public Policy Polling earlier this month showed Romney leading Trump, 27 to 21 percent, with a margin of error of 5 percent.
"The fact is when you live in New Hampshire and you're a few points up on Trump, that's not saying much. And you've been campaigning for six years and I haven't been campaigning at all."
Trump cited a federal decision not to open the federal prison in Berlin after spending $276 million to build it as "pretty pathetic and very unfair to New Hampshire and very unfair to that part of New Hampshire."
As for his campaign style, Trump said, "I'm just going to tell it like it is. I know how to make money. I've always known how to make money. The United States is broke. We're a debtor nation." He said he has the ability to fix that.
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BIG PROMO FOR MIKE. MIKE MOVES UP; NICK JOINS UP. Veteran Republican strategist Mike Biundo this week received a big promotion within the Rick Santorum presidential camp.
Biundo was named national political director of Santorum's exploratory committee. The Manchester resident and longtime political strategist has since January been the New Hampshire state director of Santorum's America's Foundation PAC.
Nick Pappas, also of Manchester, joined the former Pennsylvania senator's exploratory/testing-the-waters effort as its New Hampshire field director.
Pappas most recently was Hillsborough County field director for the state Republican Party. He worked for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign in 2008 and was previously involved in many other state and local races.
Pappas has experience in get-out-the-vote activities, volunteer recruitment and voter identification.
Biundo has been a senior advisor, campaign manager and grassroots director to numerous campaigns and issue advocacy groups, including Guinta's 2010 victory over then-incumbent U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
He also played a senior role in several presidential campaigns including Patrick Buchanan's win in New Hampshire in 1996.Biundo also directed Guinta's winning campaigns for Manchester mayor in 2005 and 2007.
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WHAT'S UP, HUCK? With rumors mounting that Huckabee is getting increasingly serious about a presidential run, a few of his key 2008 New Hampshire supporters have been in touch with him, asking, essentially, "What's up?"
Concord lobbyist and former state Sen. Bob Clegg, a top adviser to Huckabee in 2008, said he spoke with Huckabee within the past two weeks, "and he's come right out and said he's seriously considering it. I think he's a lot closer to making a decision."
Clegg said that phone calls have been going from New Hampshire to Huckabee, and not the other way around.
Clegg said some in the Huckabee inner circle are being recruited heavily by other camps but are holding off, waiting for Huckabee.
Another 2008 supporter, Bob Burns, said he remains in email contact with Huckabee's daughter, Sarah, but has no new information, while Huckabee 2008 New Hampshire campaign manager Deb Vander Beek said, "We've been in touch with the governor ever since the last election. I don't think there is anything new with that. And he's been taking calls from a lot of people from different states who are pushing him to get in."
And as for Trump, Clegg said, "He has as much chance of being President as (state Sen.) Jack Barnes has of being vice president."Barnes ran for vice president in the New Hampshire primary in the '08 election.
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MORE VISITORS FOR OVIDE'S PAC AND AFP. According to Ovide Lamontagne's Granite Oath Political Action Committee, Rudy Giuliani will appear at Lamontagne's house party series on May 12 at 5:30 p.m.
It will be the fifth such Granite Oath event. Lamontagne hosted Rick Santorum in January, Tim Pawlenty in March and Herman Cain last night. He plans to host Newt Gingrich on May 25.
The following day, May 13, Giuliani will be the keynote speaker for a Region One conference of the International Association of Emergency Managers. The event will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Rivier College in Nashua. Between 250 and 300 emergency managers from six New England states are expected to attend.
The non-profit issues group Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire has added Tea Party favorite and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint to its list of guests at its presidential "Summit on Spending and Job Creation" tomorrow at the Executive Court in Manchester.
The summit will follow a dinner honoring Lamontagne as the "Conservative of the Year."
Also participating in the summit will be Romney, Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Santorum and Cain.
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PEACETIME? Wow, that was ugly.Mistakes can be made, but Romney made a significant one when he wrote in an op-ed in Monday's editions of the New Hampshire Union Leader (and on UnionLeader.com):
"Barack Obama is facing a financial emergency on a grander scale (than fiscal issues Romney faced as the Massachusetts governor).
"Yet, his approach has been to engage in one of the biggest peacetime spending binges in American history."
Peacetime? Well, Democrats and the Washington media had a field day with that this week.
To his credit Romney and his camp immediately recanted, admitting a gaffe. "He meant to say since World War II," said Romney spokesman Eric Ferhstrom.
But VetVoice.com listed the names of the 36 service members killed in Iraq or Afghanistan since the beginning of the month and went after Mitt.
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ANTI-RGGI MOVEMENT. Conservative groups "We the People" and the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire are separately working the grassroots to try to influence a vote, expected today, by the state Senate on the state's membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
"We the People" says in an email blast that RGGI is a "cap-and-trade" system and "Cap and trade is an energy tax scheme that hurts businesses and families and destroys jobs."
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REINCE WANTS TO KNOW. Who's your presidential candidate? That's the question being posed by RNC chair Reince Priebus in a fundraising email to grassroots supporters. After clicking on the poll, supporters are asked to make a contribution.
A long list of candidates appear on the Priebus list: Bachmann, John Bolton, Cain, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, DeMint, Newt Gingrich, Giuliani, Huckabee, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Pawlenty, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Romney, Santorum and Trump.
Priebus, by the way, is distancing himself from Trump on the "birther" issue.
When speaking at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters on Tuesday, Priebus said, "Trump can - the candidates can talk about it all they want. But my position is that the President was born in the United States - and I don't think it is an issue that moves voters."
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PAUL TO KEYNOTE. Paul will keynote a fundraiser for the House Republican Victory PAC at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord May 12. His son, Rand, the Kentucky U.S. senator, makes several stops in New Hampshire today.John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News.