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Dave Solomon has been a reporter or editor for New England news organizations since 1977. He has served as executive editor of both the Portsmouth Herald and the Nashua Telegraph. He joined the reporting staff of the New Hampshire Union Leader in 2012.

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October 05. 2011 11:38PM

John DiStaso's Granite Status: Gardner warns Presidential primary could be as early as Dec. 6


 
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 12, UPDATE: DECEMBER PRIMARY POSSIBLE. In a bombshell this afternoon, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner raised the strong possibility of a December first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

In a statement entitled “Why New Hampshire's Primary Tradition is Important,” Gardner, who has full authority under state law to set the date of the presidential primary, called Dec. 13 and Dec. 6 “realistic options.”

“It's really up to Nevada,” Gardner wrote.

Nevada Republicans last week set their caucus date for Saturday, Jan. 14.

Gardner says in his memo that because Nevada is a “similar election” under New Hampshire law, “If Nevada does not adjust its caucus date to a later time, I cannot rule out the possibility of a December primary.”

Gardner continues, “If Nevada does not accept a date of Tuesday, January 17th or later for its caucus, it leaves New Hampshire no choice but to consider December of this year. The dates of Tuesday, December 13th, and Tuesday, December 6th are realistic options, and we have logistics in place to make either date happen if needed.”

> Read Gardener's full statement here

Gardner has set the filing period for the primary from next Monday, Oct. 17, to Friday, Oct. 28. His statement today did not address a federal law requiring that overseas military ballots be mailed at least 45 days before an election, which appears to mean the primary could not be held prior to Dec. 13 even if the ballots were printed immediately after the close of the filing period.

But regardless of whether the primary turns out to be Dec. 13, Dec. 6, or some other extraordinarily early date, Gardner says he has been pushed into this situation by other states moving up the dates of their primaries and caucuses into January _ particularly Nevada.

“My job as NH Secretary of State is to follow our law, which mandates that I set our election 7 days or more before any event that would threaten our traditional lead-off status,” he wrote.

Gardner also pointed out that he is willing to move the New Hampshire primary ahead of the Iowa caucus, which has traditionally been held prior to the New Hampshire election.

“With Florida moving its primary earlier than originally planned to January 31st, and South Carolina making a move to set its primary ten days earlier to Jan. 21, that began to limit options for setting our date in January. When officials in Nevada set their caucus for Saturday, January 14th, that left Tuesday, January 3rd as a possibility for us, but Iowa officials tentatively decided that their caucus would be on that day.

“We cannot allow the political process to squeeze us into a date that wedges us by just a few days between two major caucus states,” wrote Gardner. “Our primary will have little meaning if states crowd into holding their events just hours after our polls have closed.”

A report last week had national Republican officials trying to pressure Gardner into holding the primary just four days ahead of Nevada caucus.

Gardner is having none of it.

“The date of our primary is decided by state law, not by the rules or desires of political parties. Since Nevada's caucus is similar in the eyes of our statute, it means the New Hampshire primary can be set no later than Saturday, January 7th,” he wrote.

“The political parties did not give New Hampshire its presidential primary. Traditionally, it has been the first in the nation for almost a hundred years, and our state law protects our tradition. We have the largest turnout in the country, and our citizens take their roles and obligations seriously,” Gardner wrote.

“But the parties do have an important role in that they can discourage other states from trying to leapfrog onto our tradition. Right now, the problem is the date of Nevada.

“We will respond as we need to in order to honor New Hampshire's tradition, and to keep our primary relevant. Not to do so would allow us to lose an important element of American democracy forever. New Hampshire will not let that happen.”

Gardner also addresses the history of the primary, noting that over the years, “It has allowed for candidates regardless of national standing or financial capability to begin their launch into presidential politics by winning or doing well here.

He said that several candidates “likely would not have become president if they weren't first able to make their case door-to-door, face-to-face, eye-to-eye with New Hampshire voters who meet them at our homes, in our backyards and on our sidewalks away from the microphones and cameras that create a barrier between human beings.”

The clear stand taken this afternoon by Gardner worked some in the Washington-based national political media into a frenzy and prompted some to jokingly mock the 35-year Secretary of State.

“Bill Gardner will set self on fire if necessary to protect New Hampshire's sacred status,” wrote a Politico.com reporter.

Politico.com reported that Gardner unwillingness to “negotiate” the primary date has “infuriated” the Republican National Committee and GOP chairmen in other states.

He reportedly chose not to participate in conference calls with GOP officials from other states who were trying to coordinate primary and caucus dates.

But as Gardner pointed out today and countless times in the past, unlike party officials in states with party-run elections, he is not answerable to any political parties in setting the date of the state-run New Hampshire Primary.

But perhaps the most laughable comment came from Nevada GOP Chair Amy Tarkanian, who implied in an interview with Politico.com that Gardner's motives were partisan.

“He's a Democrat, number one, so he wouldn't necessarily talk with us,” Politico quoted her as saying. “And he's not thinking of Nevada first, he's thinking of New Hampshire. It would have been nice (to get a call back from Gardner). He didn't have to, but it would have been nice.”

That statement shows just how well Tarkanian knows Bill Gardner, understands what he's about and understands the bipartisan support he has received from New Hampshire lawmakers and governors since 1976.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 6 Granite Status follow. A new Granite Status will appear tomorrow in the New Hampshire Union Leader, with a full, unabridged version here on UnionLeader.com.)


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TUESDAY, OCT. 11, UPDATE: MIKE MOVES UP. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum today will name Manchester's Mike Biundo as his national campaign director, the Granite Status has learned.

Biundo has been Santorum's leading adviser and staff strategist throughout the campaign, as the former Pennsylvania U.S. senator has fought for name recognition and support in New Hampshire and the other early states in the nominating process, Iowa and South Carolina.

Since May, Biundo has been the Santorum campaign's national political director. He was previously New Hampshire state director of Santorum's former PAC, America's Foundation.

Biundo has a long history of activism in state political campaigns and issues groups.

He played a senior role in several presidential campaigns, including Patrick Buchanan's winning effort in the 1996 New Hampshire primary.

Biundo directed Frank Guinta's winning campaigns for Manchester mayor in 2005 and 2007 and then had a leading role in Guinta's victorious 2010 congressional campaign.

Santorum campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said Santorum campaign had no national campaign manager, and, he said, with Biundo now in that job, there are no immediate plans to fill Biundo's former post of national political director.

Buindo said he will continue to work on campaign strategy and “be in charge of all the early state staffs, as I was a political director.

“But now I will work more closely with the communications team and media team, including web activities,” Biundo said. He said his role is also expanded to scheduling.

Biundo sees no shift in Santorum's strategy. He said Santorum will remain committed to New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

“We're still aggressively putting together a strong team here and looking forward to competing in all of the early states,” said Biundo. “These are the states who will pick who becomes the next President of the United States.”

Biundo said he is not deeply concerned that Santorum has not fared well in New Hampshire polling.

“It's not about the polls,” he said. “It's about getting out there and doing the town halls and meeting people and communicating with them.” He said Santorum is currently in the midst of his 25th visit to New Hampshire as a candidate and, earlier, a prospective candidate.

“It's always been a three-state strategy for us,” Biundo said. “We don't look at the national polls and we know in New Hampshire that whoever is leading now is not necessarily the person who will be leading on the day of the primary.”

The Biundo move follows a weekend disclosure that state Rep. Dan Tamburello has been named as the Santorum campaign's third statewide co-chairman and director of his statewide steering committee.

Other co-chairs are Claira Monier, who has been with Santorum since last spring, and Bill Cahill, who was named a co-chair last week.

Tamburello, R-Londonderry, was an initial Santorum supporter and previously volunteered on the board of Santorum's America's Foundation PAC.

And in other political news today, Fox News first reported that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was headed to New Hampshire to endorse Mitt Romney at a 3 p.m. news conference in Hanover.

Locally, Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek endorsed Romney this week.

Also, Rudy Giuliani put to rest speculation about his plans and reportedly disclosed he will not run for President.

Top Giuliani supporter Jake Menges was in New Hampshire just two weeks ago gauging whether activists were still interested in the former New York City Mayor.

(Earlier updates and the full Oct. 6 Granite Status follow.)

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THURSDAY, OCT. 6, UPDATE: NH GETTING SQUEEZED. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - or more accurately before Christmas - for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Are you ready to vote while doing your last minute shopping on Dec. 20? How about Dec. 13?

It just might happen this time.

Nevada Republicans continued the early state squeeze on New Hampshire - and first-caucus state Iowa as well - on Wednesday night when their party's executive committee set Saturday, Jan. 14, as the date of their presidential caucuses.

New Hampshire state law requires the first-in-the-nation primary to be held at least seven days ahead of any “similar election.”

And New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who is authorized to set the primary date based on the law, said today that Nevada caucus is indeed a “similar election.”

He cited the portions of the three-sentence law that not only require a seven day post-primary window, but also requires the “tradition” of the first-in-the-nation primary to be protected when he sets the date. (For the full text of the law see below.)

Gardner had no comment on a report that national Republicans are trying to “pressure” him into setting a certain date.
“Nobody has pressured me to do anything, at least I've not taken it as pressure,” Gardner said.

Gardner said he receives inquiries from interested people all the time but does not view it as pressure.

Gardner is guided by state law, not political party rules.

“They are similar,” Gardner said of New Hampshire's state-run primary and Nevada's party-run GOP caucus. “The last sentence of the law says that we must maintain the tradition and, that's what has to be used as the criteria” for setting the primary date.

Even a caucus structured much differently than the New Hampshire primary is considered to be similar because it violates the tradition of the New Hampshire primary, said Gardner.

So, let's look at the calendar.

Since Nevada's caucus is similar, it means the New Hampshire primary can be set no later than Saturday, Jan. 7. That date is unlikely because the primary has always been held on a Tuesday, even though it is not specifically required by the law.

If Gardner sticks to a Tuesday election, the latest possible date is now Jan. 3

But that's a problem, too, because it is literally the day after the end of the Christmas/New Year holiday season. Monday, Jan. 2 is the New Year's holiday observed.

If Gardner takes the holiday season into account, it leaves him with no place else to go in setting the date except into December of this year.

It's doubtful he would schedule the primary on Tuesday, Dec. 27, smack between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

The prior Tuesday is Dec. 20, the height of the last-minute holiday rush.

Would he move earlier than that? In typical Gardner fashion, he's playing his cards very close. And that's good for New Hampshire.

A move into December would likely force Iowa into holding an early caucus, as well, since it has traditionally held its caucus eight days ahead of New Hampshire's primary.

Gardner would not get that specific on dates in an interview today, but he did say, “We are prepared to have the primary before the end of this year.”

Asked if the Nevada move means that New Hampshire must now hold its primary at least seven days before Jan. 14, Gardner said, “That's right.”

Beyond that he would not venture except to say he realized “the possibility existed” of a December primary when Florida a week ago moved its primary to Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Gardner said he expected South Carolina to react to Florida by moving its primary to the Saturday before Florida, Jan. 28. But instead, South Carolina jumped 10 days ahead of Florida, to Jan. 21.

And now Nevada has decided to go seven days ahead of that.

“Once I know I can set the date and honor the tradition, I don't wait. But I don't know that at this point,” Gardner said.

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WHAT'S A “SIMILAR ELECTION?” Why is the Nevada contest considered “similar” to the primary under the New Hampshire law when it is a caucus and New Hampshire holds a primary?

And why do we let Iowa go ahead of us with its caucuses?

Gardner said the answers to these questions lie in the history of when New Hampshire primaries have been held in the past.

He explained that the primary had been held on the second Tuesday of March from 1916 until 1972.

In 1972, he said, Iowa Democrats decided to have a caucus in January and Florida moved to the same day as New Hampshire.

New Hampshire responded to Florida in 1972 by moving its primary a week ahead of that state, but did not contest Iowa.

The New Hampshire law, authored in 1975, enshrined the seven days post-New Hampshire window into statute and did not challenge Iowa.

Why? Because Iowa's move to January pre-dated New Hampshire's move to go ahead of Florida in 1972.

“Because Iowa had already did what they did in 1972, we have said all along that we've never taken something from anybody else that they already had,” Gardner said.

Gardner said that after the 1976 primary, the “similar election” provision was added.

And the final sentence referencing the need to protect the “tradition” of the primary was a catch-all put into the law last year “so there would never be a question about what is a similar election,” Gardner said.

Gardner said the law “means what has been the tradition, and the tradition has always been that we put Iowa aside and it can do whatever it wants to do. They can go after us or the day before us or 10 days or eight days before.”

With that final sentence added last year, “No longer would there be any misunderstanding about similar election, what that means.”

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WHY TUESDAY? Gardner said the state primary law originally called for the election to be held specifically on Tuesdays but was eventually changed to allow it to be held on any day.

He said the change was made to cover “an extraordinary circumstance” that could put Iowa's caucus on Christmas or New Year's Day with no alternative.

Even with the current squeeze play, “That's not coming into play this time because we're not in the position of putting Iowa on Christmas or New Year's day,” he said.

He also said the primary would not be scheduled for a Saturday because it is the Jewish sabbath.

“Every presidential primary has been on a Tuesday, every state primary has been on a Tuesday, and ever federal and state general election has been on a Tuesday,” Gardner said.

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A PLAY BY MITT? According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the early Nevada caucus is Mitt Romney's doing.

In a story today, the paper said:

“Mitt Romney's campaign had pressed Nevada Republicans to move the caucuses into January so that he could maintain momentum coming out of New Hampshire, a state he expects to win. Romney also is counting on winning Nevada, where he finished first in 2008.”

“We moved the date for the good of Nevada, not the Romney campaign,” former Gov. Robert List said reportedly said, according to the Las Vegas newspaper. “But Romney's people were pushing for us to move into January so that he could get some momentum and have a rising tide going into Florida.”

Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said Romney supports Nevada having an early caucus. after New Hampshire, but did not press for a certain Nevada date. He said Romney had no control over when the caucus was held.

Williams said Romney “is firmly committed to preserving New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary and the critical role it plays in selecting our Republican nominee. Mitt is running a town-by-town, person-to-person campaign in town halls across the state that honors New Hampshire's important tradition.”

Williams said Romney “is also competing in every other nominating contest across the country, whenever they are scheduled.”

“It's up to each state to determine the date of its primary or caucus and Governor Romney has consistently supported Nevada's status as an early contest, following New Hampshire,” Williams said.

Jon Huntsman's New Hampshire senior adviser, Paul Collins said, “It's unfortunate that the Romney campaign is trying to game the system for their own benefit, to the detriment of Granite Staters. Their move could harm the future of holding the first in the nation primary in New Hampshire. Granite Staters are looking for a chance to meet an alternative candidate who better represents their ideals and is truly authentic.”

Paul Young, senior adviser to Rick Perry, added, “It is clear that Romney is worried that, because of his record of flip-flopping on key issues, he is in trouble in the early presidential election states so he is trying to change the rules to the detriment of the New Hampshire voters.”

And Rick Santorum "tore into" Romney on Thursday about the report, according to POLITICO.

"In a statement to POLITICO, Santorum accused Romney of “trying to bully states” to rig the 2012 calendar for him. The Pennsylvanian called on his primary opponent to apologize," the website reported.

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WHAT THE LAW SAYS: Here is the text of the primary law:

“The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous.

“Said primary shall be held in connection with the regular March town meeting or election or, if held on any other day, at a special election called by the secretary of state for that purpose.

“The purpose of this section is to protect the tradition of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary."

(The full Oct. 6 Granite Status follows.)

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ENDORSEMENT SEASON. As presidential campaigns gear up the ground game for the final three-month push to the first-in-the-nation primary, endorsements are piling up.

Mitt Romney later today will announce the backing of long-time Republican activist and “real thing” Reaganite Jerry Carmen, who will assume a senior advisory role in Romney's state campaign. More about Carmen below, as well as a strong, veteran pick-up by the Rick Santorum camp.

But also today, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's New Hampshire campaign will roll out a state steering committee with 27 members, 13 of whom have not yet been previously announced.

The new Perry backers are former Tim Pawlenty supporters David McLaughlin a former Nashua alderman, Emile Beaulieu, a former Manchester mayor, and former state Rep. Sandy Reeves of Manchester, as well as Jim Adams of Pittsfield, a former top U.S. Postal Service official who now heads the Granite State Taxpayers Association; Nashua auto dealer Jack Tulley; former Manchester state Sen. Dick Ferdinando; Atkinson builder Steve Lewis; Doug Newell, who formerly headed the Derry Taxpayers Association; Hanover activist Robert Chernan; Barrington-based Turbocam International owner Marian Naronha; former state Senate candidate Peter Angerhofer of Stratham; state Rep. Robert Greemore; and Scott Mason of North Stratford, a dairy farmer and former Coos County GOP chairman.

The committee's leadership previously announced Perry supporters John Stephen, Sean Mahoney, former Sen. Gordon Humphrey and his wife, Patty, former state Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Rep. Chuck Douglas and Deputy House Speaker Pam Tucker of Greenland.

Also on the committee are state reps. Pete Silva of Nashua, Spec Bowers of Sunapee and Will Smith of New Castle, as well as activist Cliff Hurst of Manchester, former Ambassador Joseph and Augusta Petrone of Dublin, former Ambassador Gregory Slayton of Hanover and Maynard Thomson of Freedom.

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THE CARMEN ENDORSEMENT. Carmen, of Manchester, is a former state Republican chairman who ran Ronald Reagan's legendary 1980 New Hampshire Primary campaign, then served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations as an ambassador and later was a member of the George W. Bush transition team.

He is now “of counsel” with the Carmen Group, a Washington-based lobbying and consulting firm headed by his son, David.

Carmen, still influential in New Hampshire GOP politics, says Romney is “the only candidate in the race with the credentials to carry the Reagan mantle, recapture the White House and then turn around the American economy.”

Romney has also picked up the backing of former New Hampshire House Speaker John Tucker of New London, who joins fellow former speakers Donna Sytek and Douglas Scamman

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CAHILL MOVES TO SANTORUM. A former key Pawlenty supporter, Bill Cahill of Piermont, has moved to the Santorum camp.

A businessman, former Executive Councilor, state representative and a long-time GOP activist, Cahill has been named a co-chairman and senior advisor of the former Pennsylvania senator's presidential campaign in New Hampshire. These are voluntary roles, the campaign says.

Cahill was a member of former presidential candidate Pawlenty's state steering committee until the former Minnesota governor dropped out of the race in August. In 2008, Cahill was a key player in former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's brief 2008 presidential campaign.

Cahill heads Cahill Public Affairs, LLC.

We've also learned Santorum will return to New Hampshire for three days of campaigning on Oct. 10-12. His schedule will include two town halls at locations yet to be announced.

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“BEING APPROACHED.” State Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Morse, R-Salem, confirms he's being recruited by Republican activists and potential donors to at least consider running for governor.

Flattered, Morse says, “I honestly haven't given any thought to it, yet,” and noted there is no real “off-season” at the State House.

He said that even though the Legislature is not in session, there is Senate business to do at least three days a week, and then there are businesses to run.

Speculation continues in Concord about whether former state Senator and current Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas will consider running for governor after he wins (if he wins) another term as mayor.

Well, for the record, he's said several times he would serve a full term at City Hall if reelected — most recently in Beth Lamontagne Hall's City Hall column Sept. 18, after Gov. John Lynch announced he would not run for reelection.

“I don't change my mind based on what other people's decisions are,” he told her.

Meanwhile, former State Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-Exeter) has a web site up recruiting followers to her likely run for governor.

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GETTING READY. Presidential candidates, the media and Republican businessman Bill Binnie's new WBIN television station are gearing up for next Tuesday's presidential debate at Dartmouth College's Spaulding Auditorium.

So are the Democrats.

The Granite Status has learned that Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will be at Dartmouth on Tuesday to comment on the debate and the candidates. Specifics on her appearance have yet to be announced.

Moderated by Charlie Rose, the debate will feature Romney, Perry, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Santorum, Herman Cain and Ron Paul.

The unique 105-minute “discussion-style” format will have them seated at a single table with the audience spread out around them.

A new promo to be rolled out soon on WBIN is a fast-moving “man on the street” with Granite Staters saying what they want to hear from the candidates on the key issues to be covered: jobs, the economy and taxes.

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TOWN HALLS AND MORE TOWN HALLS. The Granite Status has also learned that Romney will hold two town halls — his 13th and 14th in New Hampshire — on Monday. Romney will meet voters at the Milford VFW at 12 noon and the Hopkinton Town Hall at 6 p.m.

Bachmann, after a four-month absence from New Hampshire, will be in the state for three days leading up to the debate with a schedule that includes several town halls.

On Sunday, she has slated appearances at a Mount Washington Valley Republican Committee Town Hall at the Lobster Barn Restaurant in North Conway at noon; a stop at Zeb's General Store in North Conway at 2 p.m.; and a Lakes Region Tea Party-912 Town Hall at the Moultonborough Fire Station at 3:30 p.m.

On Monday, Bachmann will appear at a town hall at New England College in Henniker at 10 a.m.

Her campaign says more events may be added.

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HUNTSMAN, ROMNEY ON FOREIGN POLICY. One national political writer framed it as a “foreign policy smackdown.”

Whatever. But the timing is perfect for contrasting and comparing.

Shortly after Romney scheduled a foreign-policy speech for tomorrow at The Citadel in South Carolina, Huntsman slated his first major foreign-policy address for Monday in New Hampshire.

The Huntsman speech will be at 11 a.m. at Southern New Hampshire University's Walker Auditorium in Manchester, hosted by the World Affairs Council. It is open to the public.

Huntsman, the former Utah governor who also served as the U.S. Ambassador to China until earlier this year, says he is the only candidate with hands-on foreign-policy experience.

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WHAT ABOUT THE OLD MAN? Huntsman may know lots about foreign policy, but what does he know about New Hampshire? Huntsman slipped a bit the other day on the latter.

WBZ-TV commentator Jon Keller, after an interview with Huntsman on the issues, asked him on camera whether he had “checked out” the Old Man of the Mountain.

A gotcha question? You bet. But Huntsman bit.

“I've heard about it, and I've read about it over the years, I've been very close to it, but I haven't seen it up close,” he told Keller.

“Whoops!” said Keller after the interview. “The Old Man collapsed in a pile of rubble eight year ago.”

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MITT: NO COMMENT ON BOOS. At last month's televised Fox News/Google debate, presidential candidate Santorum answered a question asked via YouTube by Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq.

Hill referred to the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” asking, “Do you intend to circumvent the progress that has been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military?”

A few people in the audience booed Hill then cheered when Santorum said he would reinstate the policy if elected President.

In a clip that's received some play in the national media, Romney said in an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Monday, taped by C-SPAN, that he heard the boos but does not try to tell people whether he agrees or disagrees with how they express themselves.

“In these debates there has been a lot of booing and a lot of applause,” he said. “Cheering and booing, some of which I don't agree with.

“I have not made it my practice to scold the audience and say I disagree with this person or I disagree with that person because it goes in a lot of different directions,” Romney said.

“I don't recall whether this soldier — whether people were booing his question. I don't know why people booed, but I will tell you that the boos and the applause have not always coincided with my own views. But I haven't stepped in to try to say, ‘This one is right and this one is wrong.' Instead I focus on the things that I ought to say.”

Cain has said that in retrospect, he wishes he had criticized whoever was booing.

But Romney said, “Look, there were people who cheered at the Reagan Library when 200-some-odd people have been executed in Texas.

“I don't know that cheering for executions is something I would agree with, either, but I don't raise my hand and say, ‘Please, let me talk, I want to tell everyone you shouldn't be cheering.' I haven't made it my practice to listen to the cheers and the boos and then try to correct people on their expressions of their views.”

State Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Derry, a Perry supporter, has received national attention on liberal blogs for saying after the debate that he thought the booing of the gay soldier was “great” and that the gay soldier “disgusted” him. He did not back away from the comments when interviewed by the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the state Democratic Party, through Afghanistan War veteran and state Senate District 3 candidate Jeff Ballard, called on Baldasaro to resign and on Speaker Bill O'Brien to demand Baldasaro's resignation.

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ROMNEY: GO AHEAD AND ‘KICK THE TIRES.' There's plenty more of interest from the Union Leader's interview with Romney, which can be seen in its entirety on UnionLeader.com.

He said, for instance, that he's not offended by the fact that, no matter how many polls indicate he would be able to defeat President Barack Obama, Republicans still seem to be searching for that perfect candidate to enter the field.

On the day before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he will not be a presidential candidate, Romney insisted such searching “is a very natural part of the political process” and he expected the field “ to be open until the final few weeks” before the New Hampshire primary.

“It is so critical to replace Barack Obama and to return America to a posture of economic greatness, and military greatness, that Republicans generally and the American people want to take a very careful look at the candidates and test them well,” said Romney.

“They want to see them debate, they want to look at their track record. They want to see what Obama would use against them. So the fact that people want to take a very careful look and kick the tires, I say that of course we do. This is really important this time. More important than usual.”

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BOYCOTT FLORIDA, MITT? No way.

Romney said in the interview he supports New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary and Iowa's leadoff caucus. Of course he does.

But he's certainly not going to boycott Florida for breaking Republican National Committee rules and scheduling a primary on Jan. 31.

Four years ago, Democratic presidential candidates, led by Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, signed a pact not to campaign in Florida after the Democratic National Committee declared that because it held a primary earlier than allowed by its rule, Florida essentially wouldn't count.

They signed a similar pledge for Michigan, which also went earlier than the DNC allowed.

But this time, none of the Republican candidates are talking about such measures. Florida is simply too important to their hopes, not to mention the fact that next year's Republican National Convention is being held in Tampa.

“I don't know that I want to be involved in the entire calendar other than expressing my view and commitment to a process, which has Iowa as the first caucus and New Hampshire as the first primary,” Romney said.

“And other than that, I want delegates from all 50 states. I will try and offend no state.

“But I will commit to preserving the process, which begins with Iowa's caucus and moves to New Hampshire's primary. And after that, I don't know, there may be some other things that upon reflection I would think are sacrosanct. But those two are important to me.”

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GOOD FOR ROMNEY, HUNTSMAN. Christie's decision not to run was viewed as a boost for Romney and Huntsman.

Polls here have consistently had Romney as the front-runner, even though polls also indicate that voters have yet to make firm decisions on who they will support in the New Hampshire primary.

Huntsman has been trying to make inroads into New Hampshire and has had some modest success in recent polling here.

Having the race muddled by still another Republican with star power, at least initially, would have created a distraction that would not have benefited him.

“Romney is going to be real happy about this,” University of New Hampshire polling director Andrew Smith said of the Christie decision.

Smith has been in the field in recent days polling for WMUR television, but said he did not include Christie on the list of candidates and prospective candidates.

He said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani “is still the guy who could give Romney a real run for his money in New Hampshire. He is still popular and has been in second place here in the past.”

Several people in Christie's inner circle have worked for candidates in New Hampshire in past primary election cycles.

Maria Comella, Christie's deputy chief of staff for communications, was Giuliani's 2008 deputy communications director. She was communications director for the New Hampshire Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign.

Mike Duhaime, a top strategist for Christie's campaign for governor, managed Giuliani's campaign in 2008 and in 2004 was eastern field director for Bush-Cheney, which landed him in New Hampshire often.

And Bill Stepien, now a Christie deputy chief of staff, was New Hampshire political director for Bush-Cheney in 2004 and then was John McCain's national field director in 2008.

Still, said uncommitted New Hampshire GOP strategist Mike Dennehy, who was also a key player in the 2008 McCain campaign, “I have not heard of a single contact” by the Christie camp to anyone in New Hampshire.

Dennehy said he knows well-connected Republicans in many states and, “They didn't make a single call to an early state.”

Dennehy said, “In the end, this will have to be considered a net positive for Mitt Romney. But this was a tremendous amount of bluster for a decision that everyone expected.”

__


QUICK TAKES:

-- New Hampshire-based Americans for Campaign Reform will host a conference at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College a week from today, Oct. 13 (2:30 p.m.), entitled “Solving our Fiscal Crisis: What's Wrong with Washington? A New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary Forum.” The conference will feature former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and Charles Kolb, president of The Committee for Economic Development. The event is also sponsored by Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire, Committee for Economic Development and No Labels and participants will include Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition, Mickey Edwards of the Aspen Institute, John Fortier of The Bipartisan Policy Center, Corey Lewandowski of AFP-NH, Trevor Potter of the Campaign Legal Center and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.

-- The pro-same-sex marriage group Standing Up for New Hampshire Families has named Craig Stowell of Claremont as a co-chair along with former New Hampshire Charitable Foundation president Lew Feldstein. Stowell is a former Marine who served in Iraq and testified before state lawmakers about the plight of his gay brother.

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

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