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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Exclusive: Palin to host Seacoast clambake

Senior Political Reporter

May 25. 2011 7:09PM

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: YES, SHE'LL BE HERE. Sarah Palin is making plans to be in New Hampshire on Thursday evening.

The Granite Status has learned that Palin's staff has reached out to a number of New Hampshire Republicans for a clambake on New Hampshire's Seacoast.

Kevin Smith, executive director of the conservative issues group Cornerstone Action, confirmed tonight, 'I received a call from one of Sarah Palin's staffers asking whether I would be available for a clambake tomorrow (Thursday) evening on the Seacoast.'

He said he was given no further details and expected more Thursday morning.

'I appreciate them reaching out to me,' Smith said.

We've also learned that among the other Republicans invited were Shannon McGinley, chair of Cornerstone Action, and Jennifer Horn, founder of the conservative non-profit issues advocacy group, 'We the People,' which happens to be the phrase on the side of Palin's 'One Nation' tour bus.

It will be Palin's first visit to the Granite State, home of the first-in-the-nation primary, since the fall of 2008, when she was running for vice president.

Palin has been touring historic sites on the East Coast and meeting voters since Sunday, generating a huge buzz in the political media.

(Earlier updates and the full May 26 Granite Status follow.)

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: BACKING PAUL. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign has landed the endorsements of two state representatives and has also announced its core New Hampshire staff.

The Granite Status has learned that Reps. Jennifer Coffey, R-Andover, and Donna Mauro, R-Windham, are on board with the libertarian Republican, who announced his candidacy in Exeter on May 13.

Coffey, a second-term House member who endorsed Paul in 2008 as a private citizen and Second Amendment activist before being elected to the House, said, 'For over 30 years, Congressman Ron Paul has explained the risks of inflation, bubbles, and irresponsible spending to a Congress bent on spending like there's no tomorrow.

'And without a President Paul in 2012, not just our children, but our grandchildren will be footing the bill for our irresponsibility. I endorse the only candidate who understands our economic problems from the dollar up: Ron Paul.'

First-term lawmaker Mauro said: 'As a freshman in the State House, I am only too aware of the rising tide of voter concern for limited government and fiscal responsibility. The same issues that inspired my campaign will play out nationwide over the next year as we seek actual change in Washington.'

The Paul campaign has announced that joining state director Jared Chicoine and media coordinator Kate Schakai (formerly Kate Rick) are senior advisor Bob Goodman, a partner with the Concord-based Whitefield & Burke consulting firm, and field director Jordan Brown, a veteran of several political campaigns.

Schackai and Chicoine held the same roles in Paul's 2008 campaign in the Granite State.

(Earlier updates and the full May 26 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY UPDATE: SPEAKER 'IMPRESSED.' New Hampshire's conservative Speaker of the House says he's comfortable with the makeup of the current field of prospective Republican presidential candidates.

'I am attracted to the overall field,' said speaker William O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, shortly after meeting privately today with Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who wrapped up a two-day visit to the Granite State.

'I think we have a good cross-section of Republicans and conservative Republicans,' O'Brien told the Granite Status in an interview.

O'Brien also said that while he had no idea where and when 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will arrive in New Hampshire later this week, 'If she want to see me, I'd be happy to see her. She is another strong leader of our party and I'd welcome listening to her.'

Bachmann seemed to be preparing for a presidential run during her visit to the first-primary state Monday and Tuesday.

According to The Washington Post, when asked in Dover why she is considering running for President instead of challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota, Bachmann said, 'Because we need a person who is going to stand up to 'Obamacare.''

She continued, according to the Post, 'You've got to be willing to take on our party, the other party and then explain it to the people. I know I can make the case to the American people and win them over to our side.'

Today, O'Brien said Bachmann made a 'courtesy visit' to the State House. She was given a tour by Rep. Daniel Itse, R-Fremont, and, said O'Brien, 'She always comes with an important message that, unfortunately, the fiscal situation in Washington is dysfunctional, and she comes with I think an important understanding of that.'

O'Brien said that many Granite Staters 'understand that at some point in Washington they're going to have to do what we're doing here in New Hampshire, and that is to make the hard decisions to bring fiscal responsibility to government.'

O'Brien said Bachmann was interested in his efforts to overturn Gov. John Lynch's veto of right-to-work legislation, 'which,' he said, 'we still intend to do.

'She is a great supporter of right-to-work,' he said.

He said they also discussed her efforts to repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law, so-called 'Obamacare.'

'We all agree with her that we have a limited window of opportunity in this upcoming election to reverse the poor decision that has been made there and put in place meaningful national health care reform, rather than just what is just a nationalization of health care,' O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he recalled that early in the 1980 campaign, candidate Ronald Reagan 'at the time looked like one of a number, but he turned out to be a great President.'

He said the all in the current field are 'leaders who would be much better for the United States than the incumbent. I could support any one of them in that regard.

'And I see some that I'm particularly impressed with their ability to articulate a vision for our country,' said O'Brien.

O'Brien also named as 'strong leaders' who have not entered the race Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

'There are others who would bring a lot to the field and a good discussion,' he said, 'but if it remains this field, I think we have some good candidates to choose among.'

(Earlier updates and the full May 26 Granite Status follow.)

TUESDAY UPDATE: TWEAKING MITT. With Mitt Romney set to formally announce his presidential candidacy on Thursday in Stratham, the state Democratic Party is ramping up its attacks on the former Massachusetts governor.

The party has announced the availability of 'Two Sides of Mitt Romney' t-shirts on its web site.

The front of the shirt says: 'Mitt Romney: pro-health care reform; pro-individual mandate; pro-Recovery Act; pro-immigration reform; pro-cap and trade; pro-gay rights.'

On the back of the shirt, the same issues are listed but with an 'anti-' prefix before each one.

The party lists several news reports from this and past years to back up its claims on each alleged 'flip-flop.'

'What is more fashionable than GOP presidential primary flip-flopping?' asked NHDP spokesman Holly Shulman. 'While flip-flopping is now very fashionable within the GOP presidential primary, it can also be part of your every day fashion!'

Shulman said the 'limited edition' shirts will be available starting tomorrow.

Romney, by the way, will become the second major candidate to announce his candidacy in New Hampshire. Our initial report last week mistakenly stated his announcement would be the first by a major candidate in New Hampshire, but Ron Paul formally announced in Exeter on May 13.

The announcement is scheduled for the Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, owned by former New Hampshire House speaker Douglas Scamman and his wife, former state Rep. Stella Scamman.

Romney's exploratory committee has been promoting the event with advertising on, which includes a link to a live web stream.

(Earlier updates and the full May 26 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY UPDATE: PALIN PLANS NH VISIT. Hold everything, Republicans.

Just when the Republican presidential field appeared to be settling down, Sarah Palin is planning to come to leadoff primary state New Hampshire late next week as part of an East Coast tour of historical sites.

A source close to the tour told that Palin is tentatively scheduled to visit New Hampshire near the end of next week.

Coincidentally, late this afternoon, the point person for Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a potential presidential candidate who, like Palin, is a champion of the Tea Party/liberty movement, released details of Bachmann's aggressive schedule in New Hampshire this weekend and early next week.

Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, released a statement this afternoon that the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee on Sunday will begin a tour up the East Coast from Washington, D.C.

SarahPAC treasurer Tim Crawford stated: 'Starting this weekend, Sarah Palin will embark on a 'One Nation Tour' of historical sites that were key to the formation, survival and growth of the United States of America. The tour will originate in Washington, D.C. and will proceed north up the East Coast.'

At 3 p.m., the following additional statement appeared on the SarahPAC site:

'This Sunday, May 29th, Governor Palin and the SarahPAC team will begin a trip through our nation's rich historical sites, starting from Washington, DC and going up through New England. The 'One Nation Tour' is part of our new campaign to educate and energize Americans about our nation's founding principles, in order to promote the Fundamental Restoration of America.'

Crawford said the tour will initiate as part of the annual veterans 'Rolling Thunder' motorcycle ride through Washington, D.C. on Sunday and will then 'proceed up the East Coast,' apparently by bus.

Crawford had no further comment.

Politico reported this afternoon the trip indeed 'will include her first stop in New Hampshire since running as the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2008.'

Palin has expressed increasing interest in the GOP presidential field in recent days.

Promoting the tour on her PAC web site, Palin says the nation 'is at a critical turning point,' and, 'As we look to the future, we are propelled by America's past.

"It's imperative that we connect with our founders, our patriots, our challenges and victories to clearly see our way forward. A good way to do this is to appreciate the significance of our nation's historic sites, patriotic events and diverse cultures, which we'll do in the coming weeks on our 'One Nation' tour.'

The New Hampshire Republican Party and many other local GOP activists contaced by the Union Leader today were taken by surprise by the news of a Palin visit and said they had no one from her PAC had contacted them.

Jerry DeLemus, a key New Hampshire liberty movement leader, said he had heard rumors about a possible Palin visit in Concord on Thursday.

'Hopefully, we'll get to see her and talk with her and see what direction she is going in.

'I didn't see this coming,' said DeLemus, who chairs the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC.

'I figured she'd stay on the outside and do her work and raise money and keep people in line,' he said.

He said if Palin becomes a candidate she and Bachmann, who is seriously considering announcing her own run, would be attracting the same conservative voters.

'The best thing for them to do is to get together and decide who is the best conservative candidate.'

DeLemus also noted that Palin was 'pummeled by the media with biased reporting in the last election and that makes some Republicans think she wouldn't be a good candidate.'

THE BACHMANN SCHEDULE. Bachmann on Sunday night will have a private dinner with a small group of friends

On Monday morning, Bachmann will attend a private event hosted by John Anthony Simmons, and attended by Gold Star mother Natalie Healy, mother of the late U.S. Navy Seal Dan Healy.

She will then attend (but not speak at) the Memorial Day Parade and gathering in North Hampton.

A mid-day stop at the Strafford County and Dover Republican Committee Memorial Day Celebration at the Hellenic Center in Dover follows.

Bachmann will then attend a private meeting at the home of David and 2010 candidate for governor Karen Testerman in Franklin.

On Tuesday, Bachmann will appear on the WGIR-AM Morning Show with Jeff Chidester and then head to Concord to tour the State House with state Rep. Daniel Itse and hold a private meeting with the New Hampshire House Republican majority leadership.

She will then tape the 'Road to the White House' Radio show, for WKXL radio for airing on Wednesday, June 1.

(The full May 26 Granite Status follows.)

A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS. The overriding point made by the WMUR-CNN presidential primary poll this week is that while Granite Staters are just beginning to pay attention to the GOP race, they're far from making a firm decision on who they will support.

Mitt Romney held a big lead in the poll of 347 likely Republican primary voters conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center between May 17 and 22 - 32 percent to 9 percent for second-placer Ron Paul.

Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani were named by only 6 percent each, with Sarah Palin at 5 percent and Michele Bachmann at 4 percent.

Despite campaigning in New Hampshire relentlessly for the better part of a year, Tim Pawlenty received only 4 percent and Rick Santorum, 2 percent.

Newcomer Jon Huntsman drew 4 percent, as did Mitch Daniels, who dropped out of the race on Sunday.

Seventeen percent of those polled were undecided. The margin of error was 5.2 percent.

UNH poll director Andrew Smith said that before the likely voters were asked the horse race question of who they would vote for if the primary were held today, they were first asked if they were sure at this point who they intend to vote for. A striking 87 percent said they had no idea who they will end up voting for, while only 4 percent said they had definitely decided and 9 percent were leaning.

Smith said that at this point in the last cycle, an early June 2007 poll had 37 percent saying they had decided or were leaning, while 57 percent said they had no idea who they would support.

That's a huge difference of course. Why the gap?

For one thing, the race was much further along in May and June of 2007 than it is today. As Smith noted, the 'big names' - Romney, Giuliani and John McCain - were more active.

Of course, in New Hampshire, voters' decision are never truly firmed up until about a week, if not a day, before the primary.

At the same time, according to Smith, there is just as much interest in the current GOP primary at this point in the cycle as there was last time.

In the latest poll, 42 percent of likely GOP primary voters said they were 'extremely' interested in the primary, while 32 percent were 'very' interested for a total of 74 percent.

In early June 2007, Smith said, 34 percent were 'extremely' interested and 40 percent were 'very' interested, for a total of 74 percent.

Still, interest in the primary has actually waned since last summer and fall when 61 and 58 percent, respectively, said they were extremely interested.

Smith attributed the drop to a natural erosion of general interest in elections, an interest level that peaked during the height of the 2010 campaign.

On a corresponding question, 65 percent of those polled said they will definitely vote in the primary, down from 81 percent a month ago, but another 18 percent said in the recent poll they will vote barring an emergency.

Another key question tested the level of satisfaction with the field and the result was that 9 percent were 'very' satisfied, 42 percent were 'somewhat' satisfied, 28 percent were 'somewhat' dissatisfied and 15 percent were 'very' dissatisfied.

Romney, because he is best known among the candidates, held big leads over the field when voters were asked to name the strongest leader (40 percent to 12 percent for Giuliani), the most believable (20 percent to 12 percent for Paul), the most likeable (29 percent to 10 percent for Palin), the most likely to defeat President Barack Obama (42 percent to 4 percent for Giuliani) and the person with the 'right' experience (37 percent to 13 percent for Gingrich).

Romney was also picked as the person who can 'best handle' the economy (44 percent to 7 percent for Gingrich), the deficit (37 percent to 7 percent each for Gingrich and Paul) and health care (31 percent to 8 percent for Paul).

Giuliani edged Romney as the candidate who can 'best handle' terrorism, 19 to 16 percent with 13 percent for Gingrich.

It's all good news for Romney - almost.

His support is actually slightly lower than April (36 percent), February (40 percent) and last October (36 percent), but Smith said that's a 'natural occurrence' as others gain even minimal support.

'He's still three times higher than the next person and no other support is going to a single person,' Smith said. 'It's an indication that as the local guy, he's got a solid base of support he can work from.'

Still, Granite Staters know that being the frontrunner at this early stage can be dangerous.

With his lead based almost entirely on name recognition at this point, Romney is the target of constant Democratic attacks and he'll eventually be the target of the other GOP candidates.

The lesser-known candidates, pretty much regardless of how much 'earned media' - that is news coverage - they receive, really won't start building name recognition until they begin television advertising.

That's why the camps of candidates like Pawlenty and Santorum can still be optimistic even in low single digits.

Still, as Smith said, 'They do have a reason for some concern. It takes time to build name recognition, and lower poll numbers usually mean a more difficult time raising money' for the advertising that will build their name recognition.

- - - - - -

PATAKI ON THE AIR. Former New York Gov. George Pataki hit the television airwaves in New Hampshire yesterday with a new ad for his nonprofit advocacy group, 'No American Debt.'

'Both parties got us here,' Pataki says in the ad, 'reckless spending, record debt.'

But he then targets only President Barack Obama, accusing him of ignoring both his own bipartisan commission's suggestions for reducing the deficit as well as attacking the GOP plan put forward by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

Pataki charges that Obama's proposal is to 'raise taxes and cut spending - somewhere, someday.

'That's no plan,' Pataki says, urging viewers to join his group.

The ad began airing on WMUR and regionally on Fox News yesterday, the day after Pataki came to the state to talk about reducing the debt and deficit.

Pataki spokesman David Catalfamo said an ad buy was placed through June 13, the date of the New Hampshire presidential primary debate at Saint Anselm College, cosponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR and CNN.

The ad is the first by an advocacy group aired in conjunction with the first-in-the-nation primary.

Pataki has not totally ruled out a run for President, although the odds of him becoming a candidate are viewed as long.

- - - - - -

GOOD PICKUPS FOR RICK. The county attorney of the state's largest county heads the latest group of New Hampshire endorsements for Santorum, who's expected to formally announce his presidential candidacy in two weeks.

Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan is among three Nashua-based elected officials Santorum announced yesterday as members of his fledgling campaign team.

Also endorsing Santorum were state Reps. Bill Ohm and Kevin Brown.

Hogan, a long-time trial attorney and former chairman of the Nashua Republican City Committee, becomes the first county attorney to officially endorse a presidential candidate for the coming primary.

However, Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams, who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, earlier this year hosted Ann Romney for an event at his home and is expected to endorse Romney again. Rockingham is the state's second-largest county.

Hogan last November defeated then-incumbent Democratic County Attorney Robert Walsh by 23,000 votes.

Hogan becomes one of the biggest names Santorum has picked up to date. County officers, such as county commissioners, county attorneys, county treasurers and sheriffs, run grassroots-oriented campaigns and generally build closely-knit networks.

A member of a well-known GOP family in Nashua, Hogan is son of pro-life leader Dan Hogan.

Ohm, a retired business executive, is the former vice president and general manager of ADE Technologies.

Brown is a lifelong Nashua resident who is active in the NRA and American Red Cross.

A Santorum aide confirmed that Santorum will formally announce his decision on whether to run for President the week of June 5. And since Santorum has already accepted an invitation to participate in a New Hampshire presidential primary debate on June 13, it seems clear that his decision will be to become an official candidate.

- - - - - -

ONE STOP 'TPAW.' Pawlenty isn't making a lot of time for the first-primary state during his announcement tour.

It's doubtful that Pawlenty is writing off the state already, but it's noteworthy that he plans only one public stop on his visit today.

It's no surprise that the former Minnesota governor formally announced his candidacy in neighboring Iowa, the first-caucus state where he must do well.

But he then went to Florida, a state which seems intent on breaking a national Republican rule addressing the caucus primary schedule, and yesterday he was in Washington, D.C., addressing the Cato Institute.

Today, Pawlenty will visit Cirtronics, an electronics products manufacturer in Milford. He'll take a tour and talk to employees. And then, he's out, and on his way to New York City for a speech on Wall Street.

Pollster Smith surmises that Pawlenty 'seems to have made a decision that New Hampshire is not going to be the spot where he's going to take off.'

That remains to be seen, but his level of attention to New Hampshire during his announcement week is interesting.

- - - - - -

MORE RUDY DETAILS. Giuliani, still considering a run for President, will return to New Hampshire on June 2 and 3.

Giuliani supporter Wayne Semprini says Giuliani will attend a luncheon in North Conway hosted by Vito Marcello at his Bellini's Ristorante Italiano, followed by a fundraiser for the state Republican Party at GOP activist Dan Philbrick's Three River Farm in Dover. (Philbrick backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008).

Semprini said that on Friday, June 3, Giuliani will attend a private dinner with Manchester-area business people hosted by Steve Talarico, co-owner of Manchester Harley Davidson.

- - - - - -

CAIN IS IN. Conservative businessman and presidential hopeful Herman Cain says he will appear in the New Hampshire presidential debate on Monday, June 13.

Cain urged other Republican candidates to attend, saying, 'Those of us who are serious about earning the trust and confidence of the voters will take part in this important event.'

The debate, co-sponsored by CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader, will be held at Saint Anselm College from 8 to 10 p.m.

Cain will next be in New Hampshire on Monday, May 30, and Tuesday, May 31.

On Monday morning, he will stop at Beantowne, a coffee shop in Hampstead, and then attend a Memorial Day observance in that town. On Tuesday, Cain will address the House Republican Alliance at the Legislative Office Building. He also has private lunches scheduled on Monday with business owners on the Seacoast and on Tuesday with restaurant owners in Concord.

And, as we've reported, Bachmann will be in the state on Monday, while Michigan U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter will make his New Hampshire debut on June 3 aboard the M/S Mount Washington during the Belknap County Republican Committee's annual 'Lincoln Day' cruise.

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

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