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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Huntsman's NH schedule has a distinct 'McCain' flavor

By John DiStaso
Senior Political Reporter

May 11. 2011 7:31PM

TUESDAY EVENING UPDATE: A DOZEN STOPS. Jon Huntsman's New Hampshire schedule is complete, minus a few potential last minute tweaks, and, as we first reported last week, it contains a dozen stops from the Upper Valley to the Seacoast over the course of five days, beginning Thursday. And we have the details.

Huntsman, a Republican who served as President Barack Obama's Ambassador to China through the end of April, hasn't formally announced a candidacy, yet, but is setting up organizations nationally and in New Hampshire and other key early primary/caucus states.

Since he was forbidden by federal law from engaging in political activities until leaving his government post nearly three weeks ago, Huntsman needs an aggressive schedule to begin catching up with the other announced and likely candidates in name recognition.

As one key uncommitted New Hampshire Republican strategist pointed out today, he is virtually unknown not only to the rank-and-file voters, but also to most activists.

It remains to be seen how Huntsman will play in the first-primary state, but he is indeed coming in with an schedule chock full of small-venue "retail" stops with a strong John McCain 2008 flavor.

He arrives on Thursday evening and immediately attends a "meet-and-greet" hosted by former McCain 2008 campaign state co-chair Nancy Merrill at Jesse's Restaurant in Lebanon.

On Friday, Huntsman:

- Speaks at a house party at the home of former Cheshire County Republican Chair (and unsuccessful candidate for state GOP chair) Juliana Bergeron in Keene.

- Speaks at a House party at the home of former McCain backers Bobbie and Jarvis Coffin in Hancock.

- Speaks at the VFW Post 1631 in Concord.

On Saturday, Huntsman:

- Delivers the commencement address at Southern New Hampshire University at mid-day.

- Makes afternoon stops at two Hooksett campaign "landmarks," Riley's Gun Shop and Robie's Country Store.

- Speaks to the Windham Republican Committee at the local Nesmith Library.

On Sunday, Huntsman:

- Meets with members of the Winnipesaukee Republican Committee at Jo Green's Garden Cafe in Wolfeboro.

- Speaks at the Laconia VFW Post.

- Attends a house party hosted by Bill and Patty Grimm, former "McCainiacs," in Franklin.

On Monday, Huntsman:

- Speaks at a house party at the home of Richard and Jeannine Poore in Durham.

(Earlier updates and the full May 12 Granite Status follow.)

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TUESDAY UPDATE: ANOTHER NEW YORKER! Last week, New Hampshire hosted Donald Trump, then Rudy Giuliani.

Now, we've learned, another New Yorker is readying a return visit to the Granite State.

Former Empire State Gov. George Pataki will be in New Hampshire next Tuesday, May 24.

Pataki won't be here to explore the proverbial presidential waters. He announced last month he's not running for President.

But Pataki does want to utilize the state's unique position in the presidential process to talk about his long-held passion for fiscal responsibility.

And, to that end, he has set up a new advocacy group, No American Debt, which he chairs and which he'll be promoting in the first-primary state.

Veteran strategist Scott Spradling, working with Pataki on the visit, said the former governor, through No American Debt, plans to be "a very loud voice in New Hampshire and very active in holding the candidates' feet to the fire" to elicit specifics on how they would deal with the nation's $14 trillion debt.

Pataki has said the group also intends to hold President Barack Obama accountable on the issue. describes its mission as a "50-state targeted effort to raise awareness about the long-term impacts of debt and to encourage President Obama and Republican candidates for President to propose serious solutions to America's debt crisis."

Look for No American Debt to do some advertising in New Hampshire as the debate over the debt ceiling, and presidential campaign, go on.

Next Tuesday, Pataki will do some media interviews and deliver a speech at New England College's ECON 101 Town Meeting forum, following a private breakfast with a group of New Hampshire friends.

Pataki briefly considered running for President in the 2008 cycle, and while he's not running this time, he is viewed as a potential running mate on the eventual GOP ticket.

(Earlier updates and the full May 12 Granite Status follow.)

MONDAY UPDATE: "FUN WHILE IT LASTED." The Donald Trump experience in New Hampshire was "definitely fun while it lasted."

Concord lobbyist Curtis Barry, who helped set up Trump's Nashua appearance last week, spoke for many when he gave that assessment shortly after "The Donald" announced this afternoon he won't run for President, after all.

For sheer entertainment value, Trump was unmatched, certainly in the current field. But could he have handled the intense scrutiny he would have received as a full-fledged candidate? We'll never know, apparently.

When Trump came to New Hampshire last week, he seemed to hint at the decision he announced today. Addressing the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, and in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader and, the billionaire businessman complained of being relentlessly "hammered" by the media and talked proudly about how he was not part of the Republican establishment "club."

As a result, his decision not to run for President didn't surprise several of the key contacts he made during his two visits to the Granite State, last week in Nashua and on April 27 on the Seacoast.

"I had been getting the feeling for the past week or so that he wasn't going to do it," said Republican strategist and former state Rep. Fran Wendelboe, who had been in touch with Trump and his organization often over the past few months about the possibility of working for him in New Hampshire.

Wendelboe said she had spoken with Trump assistant Michael Cohen prior to last week's visit about Trump's next tentatively scheduled visit in June.

She said they spoke about Trump appearing in a June 13 debate cosponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR and CNN. She said they also spoke seriously about a Flag Day event on June 14, which also happens to be Trump's 65th birthday.

Wendelboe said that after Trump cancelled an appearance on a candidate forum program on WMUR television, she got the feeling that he was not serious, and she said she told the Trump organization that she was no longer interested in working with them.

"I think it really started sinking in about how much of a time constraint it really would have been on him and his family," Wendelboe said. "And he's thin-skinned. I think he was too thin-skinned to stand the heat."

On the other hand, said Wendelboe, "I think he brought a lot of interesting thought to the process. He touched on subjects that others had not been seriously talking about. He reflected what the average American was thinking in many ways.

"I think he could have been a player," said Wendelboe, "but he needed to have a little bit less circus and a lot more substance. It would have been a very exciting campaign to work for but also very difficult."

Wendelboe said she believed Trump's decision was influenced by NBC's announcement during the week end that the hit show "Celebrity Apprentice" would continue without him if he ran for President.

Trump had confirmed that he would appear in June at a "Politics and Eggs" event sponsored by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

But institute executive director Neil Levesque said he had not heard from the Trump organization in about a month.

"As soon as they knew they could get publicity from the event, I stopped hearing from them," Levesque said. "Nothing was scheduled and I realized they were more about publicity than actually scheduling something.

"They were very difficult to deal with."

Levesque said he looked at potential venues but did not book a place for the Trump event "because I wanted a more concrete answer before booking."

Concord lobbyist Barry, who helped arrange last Wednesday's Trump visit and address to the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said that speaking with Trump on the drive back to the airport, "he asked a lot of questions about campaigning in New Hampshire, how much time would be required. I explained the kinds of events I thought he'd have to do, not that that had anything to do with his decision."

Barry said he "had indications both ways" on what Trump would do.

"Ultimately, I take him at his word that the amount of time he'd have to invest to do a New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus the right way would take too much time from his business."

Barry said he and Trump never talked about a long-term consulting relationship if Trump had decided to run.

Barry said, "My sense is Republicans in New Hampshire and elsewhere were attracted to his message. I think people look at the prospect of him as a candidate with one perception of Donald Trump from the television show and over the past few months, people got a very different view of him through his view of world politics.

"People nodded their heads and said, 'He's right,' but whether he was the right candidate for those messages, who knows?"

Overall, said Barry, "It was fun while it lasted."

"Draft Trump" New Hampshire coordinator Mark Laliberte said he believes Trump was energized by the excitement he generated but also did not anticipate the intensity of the "media pounding" directed at him.

Laliberte also noted that Trump had no "ground game" in New Hampshire and other early primary and caucus states and "came to realize what it takes for a presidential campaign, especially in the New Hampshire primary.

"I think running for President is different than anyone thinks it's going to be," he said. "But it was certainly an interesting experience."

An earlier update and the full May 12 Granite Status follow.

THURSDAY UPDATE: RON PAUL TELLS US WHY. Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul confirmed this afternoon he will announced his candidacy for President tomorrow at a rally at the Exeter Town Hall.

Paul, the libertarian-leaning "father" of the Tea Party movement, said in an interview he has never changed his "personal liberty/economic liberty" philosophy over his many years in the House.

Paul sought the GOP nomination in 2008 and finished fifth in the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary. He also ran in 1988 as the nominee of the Libertarian Party.

In Manchester today, Paul told he would have been happy to "go back to Washington" to carry on his fight for smaller government and more personal and economic liberty.

But he was convinced to run for the GOP nomination for a second time by "the constant seeking me out to give an opinion.

"And that was my goal in life, to give an opinion," he said. "But I was also taught by someone I respect very much that my job was not to push myself on anybody and say, 'I'm the greatest.' It was to become informed and become available and something will happen."

Paul also said, "A lot of people recognize that I don't really change over the years, and I haven't. I've given the same speech, the same philosophy and voiced the same concerns ever since I entered Congress in the 1970s.

"But the sentiment has changed and the atmosphere has changed. It's changed dramatically from four years ago," he said.

Paul said that voters in general are now "more receptive to what I'm saying," perhaps because, he said, the nation is "over-doing things overseas, and over-spending, or whether it's the deficit, which I worried about in the 1970s, or whether it has to do with the Federal Reserve system."

Paul, who has long been a foe of the Federal Reserve and has called for it to be audited by an independent entity, said his message is catching on nationally as illustrated by the rise of the Tea Party and growing concern about the nation's deficit and debt.

"Although I was talking about these things for 30 years, it was during this last campaign that I was not only delighted but so surprised that college students started to shout back at me," he said. "They originated the term, 'Audit the Fed,' and 'End the Fed.'

"Now, you can even mention Austrian economics and Mises on college campuses and get applauses," he said, referring to Austian-born economist Ludwig von Mises, who is viewed as an early advocate of libertarianism.

"It's coming," he said. "That, plus the fact that I was in a place to be a spokesman for this, plus the crash, the financial bubble, has all brought this together."

Paul reiterated that he would not have ordered Osama bin Laden killed.

"I think it would have been better for us and for the world to have done what we did when we got the people who first bombed the (World Trade Center) towers. We worked with the government of Pakistan and they helped us. And many of them were brought back and they were tried in New York and convicted and electrocuted or imprisoned. I don't know what's wrong with that."

Paul said that even if he had know where bin Laden was located in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a President Ron Paul "would have wanted to see what kind of response we got from Pakistan. Why give up on that?

"What if we had had the same evidence that we was in a hotel in Paris and there was a risk that if you told somebody there, they'd put the information out?

"We would have treated it differently," he said.

He noted that the Pakistani government helped bin Laden out of the mountains of Tora Bora many years ago.

"How could it have been any worse than that and all the tragedy we went through after that?" he said.

Paul noted that in the 24 hours after his appearance in a debate in South Carolina a week ago, he raised $1 million.

He said the overall response he has received to his message, in terms of money and people who have signed on as supporters, "is pretty amazing. It actually really humbles me that they place that much confidence in me."

The full May 12 Granite Status follows.


POWER LINEUP. Donald Trump sent a mixed message about his presidential plans while in Nashua Wednesday, but the big takeaway was a clear: The Donald is skeptical that he could deal with the Inside-the-Beltway style of the Washington establishment, and he's less sure that the establishment could deal with him. Such talk left the impression that The Donald is pulling back from a candidacy.

But at the same time, Trump reiterated candidate-like talk, about how much he loved the country, how deeply the country is in trouble and needs "good people" and non-politicians to pull it away from "the cliff" over which it is headed.

Trump did take some time prior to his speech to meet and discuss issues with about three dozen business people at the Radisson Nashua Hotel.

Granite Status interview: Trump says Rove, Bush 'gave us Barack Obama'

According to someone who was in the room, the group included contractor John Stabile, auto dealer Jack Tulley, Sy Mahfuz of the Persian Rug Gallery, state Rep. Steve Stepanek, Public Service of New Hampshire President Gary Long, former Nashua Mayor and Executive Councilor Bernie Streeter, GOP activist Greg Carson and Democratic former state Sen. Joe Foster, a Nashua attorney.

When Trump came to New Hampshire two weeks ago, he had no local contacts to help arrange meetings, so the state Republican Party helped him out.

This time, veteran Concord lobbyist Curtis Barry, whose presidential primary roots date to former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's brief run for President in 1995, provided the local assist for Trump and his team.

Barry said he was chamber President Chris Williams' "connection to the Trump organization."

Barry said he helped out on this visit alone and has no plans for a longer-term relationship with Trump. Whether that plan changes if Trump actually runs remains to be seen.

BUSY THURSDAY. The fun doesn't stop this week with the departure of Trump.

On Thursday, Rick Santorum, Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul will all be in New Hampshire.

Santorum will appear on state Rep. Pete Silva's radio talk show with guest host Jennifer Horn. He'll then have lunch with local activists at the Tuscan Kitchen in Salem.

Later on Thursday, Santorum will address the Nashua Republican City Committee at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

On Thursday, Giuliani will appear at Ovide Lamontagne's Granite Oath PAC presidential series house party at Lamontagne's Manchester home, 172 Young St., at 5:30 p.m.

Friday, 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.

Paul on Thursday will keynote a fundraiser for the New Hampshire House Republican Victory PAC at the Grappone Center in Concord.

Friday at 10 a.m., he will deliver a speech at a "Liberty Rally" at the Exeter Town Hall and, at 5:30 p.m., headline a Grafton County GOP Dinner at the Elks Lodge in Lebanon.

On the staffing front, Paul's exploratory committee has re-hired Kate Schackai (formerly Kate Rick) on a consulting basis, as his media point-person in New Hampshire. Also on board as a consultant is Jared Chicoine, who coordinated Paul's '08 campaign in the Granite State.

DIGGING IN. Likely Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman's maiden visit to New Hampshire, will span no fewer than five days and include at least 11, and most likely more, stops, from the Upper Valley to the Seacoast.

While some (but not all) others come in for one or two stops and then fly off, this is the only effective way to do it if one intends to take New Hampshire seriously, says Huntsman's chief Granite State-based organizer, former Executive Councilor Peter Spaulding, who chaired two successful John McCain New Hampshire efforts.

Because Huntsman had been in the employ of the federal government (as President Barack Obama's Ambassador to China) until April 30, he starts at a disadvantage.

"He has some ground to make up because a lot of Republicans don't know him," Spaulding said. "Initially, we'll be dealing with party activists and then when we get into the summer and fall, the operation changes into more of the town hall-type of approach."

Will the Republican's service to Democrat Obama be an albatross if, as assumed, Huntsman pursues the nomination?

"That's what we're going to begin to find out," said the always frank Spaulding. He said he did not feel that former Sen. Judd Gregg "got a lot of grief" when he agreed to become Obama's commerce secretary a few years ago. Gregg, of course, later withdrew as Obama's nominee.

While some reports have sketches of the Huntsman visit, here's the most detailed look yet, directly from Spaulding (who noted, by the way, that specific locations of some events need to be firmed up and more events will likely be added):

Huntsman is scheduled to arrive on Thursday evening, May 19, and immediately attend a house party in Lebanon at a venue yet to be nailed down.

He'll head to Keene for a private meeting with activists and stay overnight there. He'll attend a breakfast with invited guests, also in Keene, on Friday morning, May 20, before heading to Hancock for a house party at the home of activists Bobbie and Jarvis Coffin.

Later that afternoon, Huntsman will be in Concord for a meeting at GOP headquarters with state party chair Jack Kimball.

Huntsman will head to Manchester to overnight and prepare his commencement speech for the following day, May 21, at Southern New Hampshire University.

Spaulding said Huntsman's schedule is open for the afternoon period following the commencement ceremony, but will be filled within the next week.

Huntsman will spend Saturday evening speaking to the Windham Republican Committee at the Nesmith Library in Windham.

Another private meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sunday morning in the southern New Hampshire area before Huntsman heads to Franklin on Sunday afternoon for a house party at the home of activist Bill Grimm. A Sunday night dinner and his last scheduled event, a Monday morning breakfast, both with Seacoast Republicans, are planned in Portsmouth.

WHO CANCELED WHOM? One place Huntsman won't end up when he comes to New Hampshire on May 19-23 will be the New Hampshire Cultural Diversity Awareness Council's annual conference and dinner, slated for May 24 at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester.

Council chairman and founder Wayne Jennings is unhappy because, he says, Huntsman officials "absolutely" committed to having Huntsman keynote the event several months ago, while Huntsman was still ambassador to China.

Jennings said he had received commitments from Spaulding locally and nationally from Huntsman aide Lanny Wiles.

But within the past few weeks, Jennings said, "They said some changes had to be made."

Jennings said they insisted that Huntsman be the lone dinner speaker and wanted him to jettison two officials who had been already scheduled for the program, Consul General of India-New York Prabhu Dayal and Matthew J. Slaughter, associate dean of the M.B.A. program at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.

Jennings said the two had made "special plans to attend our event," and he refused.

At that point, Huntsman's people pulled out, according to Jennings.

"We're disappointed he didn't want to speak with the other people on the program," said Jennings.

"Until this incident I had a lot of respect for Jon Huntsman and held him in the highest regard. But because of this I have to question the value of his word. This changed my image of him."

But Spaulding, not surprisingly, has a different take. He said a commitment was "never" made to Jennings and that it was Jennings and the diversity council board who essentially canceled Huntsman.

"I think I used the term that this event was on our 'wish list,' but it never went further than that," Spaulding said.

Spaulding said Jennings "kept changing things" and, "It became a very exasperating event."

Finally, said Spaulding, Jennings told him "some of his board members said that Huntsman coming would make it too political, and he told me they were canceling the invitation."

Spaulding also said he was surprised Jennings is being critical now. While Jennings said the cancellation occurred fairly recently, Spaulding said, "It must have been early April when he knew that Huntsman would not be there."

ROMNEY STAFFS UP. Mitt Romney's exploratory committee has hired its third and fourth New Hampshire-based staffers for the campaign ahead.

Jill Neunaber and Danny O'Driscoll have signed on as deputy state directors, reporting to state director Jason McBride. Ryan Williams is also on board as regional press secretary but is focusing (of course) on leadoff primary state New Hampshire.

Neunaber will run the exploratory committee and future campaign's field operations. She is the former political director for Lamontagne's 2010 U.S. Senate campaign and was a former Republican National Committee staffer focusing on the party's "Victory" program.

She previously was a staffer for U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's campaign in Massachusetts. In 2007 and 2008, Neunaber was a field staffer for Romney's campaign in Iowa. She also has Capitol Hill experience.

O'Driscoll will head the committee's (and campaign's, when it become official) voter contact effort. He is also a former RNC staffer who was involved in the party's absentee ballot program in the last cycle. He's also worked on several congressional campaigns.

HUNTSMAN STAFFER. Huntsman has also hired a media relations staffer for New Hampshire, still another sign that he's gearing up for a presidential run.

Michael Levoff, officially working for Huntsman's new H-PAC, says he's the "point person" for the Granite State.

A former staffer for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the mayor's office and in Bloomberg's 2009 campaign, Levoff also worked on a congressional race on Long Island for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign and was a public information officer for the New York Police Department.

With Huntsman readying a trip to the Granite State, it will be interesting to see how his campaign in New Hampshire develops. We understand from New Hampshire sources that John Weaver, Huntsman's top strategist, is calling prospective staffers.

LOOKING UP. Santorum's campaign is looking past the dismal results of last week's WMUR poll that showed him at less than 1 percent.

The Granite Status has learned he's hired the second New Hampshire staffer for his exploratory committee. She is Kristin Beaulieu of Nashua, who will organize field activities.

Beaulieu is a former field representative for Jim Bender's 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. She then worked as the deputy campaign manager for freshman state Sen. Jim Luther.

Santorum supporters say it's not about polling numbers at this point, but rather about lining up activists to help later in the campaign. They say Beaulieu will play a key role in that effort.

The Santorum camp is pleased with the (likely) candidate's showing in last Thursday night's South Carolina GOP debate and his win the following day in a straw poll at a party dinner in that state.

He was the only candidate to attend and received 150 votes, more than double second-place finisher Romney's 61. Herman Cain, who wowed the crowd at the Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire event in Manchester two weeks ago, drew 44; Trump received 29, Chris Christie and Michele Bachmann, 22 each; and Pawlenty, 7.

(AFP-NH director Corey Lewandowski, by the way, tells the Status the April 29 event netted $40,000.)

Santorum is looking for a good showing at the straw poll to be conducted here at Cornerstone Action's "First-in-the-Nation Family Fair," June 18, at the McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester.

CARNEY ON BOARD. No surprise, but David Carney will stay on with Newt Gingrich now that the former speaker has become a candidate for President.

Carney, the veteran Hancock-based political expert, says he has no specific role or title yet, but will be "supporting" Gingrich in a very active way.

In Carney-speak, that pretty much means he'll be running, or at least have a very significant hand in running, the Gingrich operation here.

Carney heads Norway Hill Associates along with long-time partner James McKay, who's also part of the Gingrich team.

John DiStaso is senior political reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News.

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