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January 07. 2012 11:15PM

Garry Rayno's State House Dome: Thoughts, predictions as primary season nears its finale


 

THE FINISH LINE: As New Hampshire Presidential Primaries go, the 2012 version has been lackluster, particularly compared with the 2008 version, which was electrifying.

New Hampshire's famed retail politics is not front and center this time around. But that does not mean each candidate's ground game is any less important than during past campaigns; in fact, it is more important.

Here are some of my observations and predictions.

Mitt Romney never really stopped running for President and his campaign team never disbanded. He has the folks on the ground to identify and turn out his voters, and that is one of the reasons he should have a comfortable victory Tuesday with about 40 percent of the vote.

Ron Paul also never stopped running and maintained many key operatives and supporters from this run in 2008. Paul's campaign has the second-best ground game in New Hampshire; witness his large victory margin at the Young Republican's straw poll this summer even though he did not attend the event.

Paul's young, enthusiastic supporters have been arriving in New Hampshire since Christmas and will help with the final push. Paul should garner about 20 percent of the vote for a good showing.

The next three places are not so easy to predict, although they will be critical to the candidates who are looking for a boost in New Hampshire before moving on to the South Carolina contest and then Florida.

My heart says Jon Huntsman should be rewarded for the time he has spent in New Hampshire running the old-fashioned way, meeting one voter at a time, shaking hands and talking with everyone he can.

However, these are different times, and he may not be conservative enough for most Republican primary voters.

My head says Rick Santorum will ride his Iowa bounce and will finish in third place and may even challenge Paul for second place.

Santorum spent a great deal of time in New Hampshire in the early stages and has a “New Hampshire Advantage” in Mike Biundo, who has worked in political campaigns in New Hampshire for more than 20 years.

While Santorum lacked money early in the race, he certainly has it now, but it may be too late to use it in New Hampshire to claim the second spot.

Despite the coveted endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, which helped vault him into the top tier of candidates, Newt Gingrich never really had much on the ground in New Hampshire and only opened a real campaign office after he was endorsed.

The new Newt has been less volatile, more focused and the darling of Republicans who believe they need an intellectual bulldog to debate President Obama in the general election.

But without a solid, well-oiled campaign infrastructure, it is hard to win in New Hampshire.

Santorum will probably receive 15 percent of the vote, and Gingrich and Huntsman about 10 percent.

Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann both looked like they could challenge for the top spot when they announced, but soon fell out of favor with New Hampshire voters.

Neither spent much time here.

Bachmann has ended her campaign, and Perry has focused on South Carolina since his lackluster showing in the Iowa caucuses, staying away from New Hampshire for the past week.

The two will finish in the low single numbers in New Hampshire.

After Tuesday, we can turn our attention to the state intramural contests leading up to November's general election.

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NO TAKERS: Not one presidential candidate would sign a pledge to bring “a new spirit of civility, effective dialogue, compromise, consensus, and results to the Office of the President of the United States,” according to the man who proposed it, Dr. Robert Scott, a former Newport state representative and current state Republican Party treasurer.

Scott said he spent three weeks talking to the campaigns' minions without much success. “They have such a distorted perception of reality. Gridlock running the election becomes gridlock running government and gridlock through to the lobbyists,” he said.

Scott has a new book, released last month, “Thinking Beyond Gridlock.”

He said he sent information to all the campaigns and had a couple of nibbles, but no one was willing to bite.

Huntsman's campaign did discuss the issue with him, Scott said, and Scott was told Huntsman would not sign any pledge. “Huntsman was the only one who actually engaged me in conversation,” Scott said.

Scott said he was asked to introduce Huntsman at an event last week at the Newport Recreation Center, which he did. The event drew about 300 individuals representing an amazing cross-section of people, he said.

While the presidential candidates may not have taken his pledge, Scott says he is optimistic because of the response he has received from others.

People have been very supportive of the concept of preventing congressmen from becoming lobbyists and for prohibiting congressmen and their staff from trading securities and equities, he said. “People realize that is the only way we are going to reform things,” Scott said, “and I've been speaking to a broad spectrum of people from the far right to the far left who get it, who get the big picture and see there is a problem.”

Scott said the director of the International Monetary Fund was asked during a recent radio interview: What is the biggest concern about the United States? She said the U.S. people need to stop bickering, according to Scott.

“This is a drum we need to keep beating,” he said. “We need a new center of influence that will be able to benefit American society.”

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NO BREAK: The Legislature has a tradition of not doing business on election days or Town Meeting days. But not this year.

The House has a full day of about 50 hearings scheduled for Tuesday, while the Senate has a rather light schedule of 12.

Several House members spoke about having to be in Concord on a day when many would like to be holding signs at the polls for their candidate or making calls to make sure supporters go vote.

Democrat Stephen Shurtleff of Concord even raised the issue, although there is no real contest on the Democratic side of the ticket.

Past speakers — including Terie Norelli, Doug Scamman, Gene Chandler, Donna Sytek and Harold Burns — have given House members Primary Day off.

Of concern to some who spoke up is a hearing scheduled Tuesday on House Bill 1478, which would make a person's residence for motor vehicle registration the same as for voting.

How could the secretary of state or town or city clerks testify on the bill when they would be busy Tuesday with the primary? some wondered.

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PRIMARY WATCH: Foreign diplomats from Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and Japan are in the state this weekend to witness the primary.

The group is here under the Diplomatic Observer Program and traveled from event to event to see the candidates and attend both debates this weekend.

Among those addressing the group were Bill Gardner, secretary of state; Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center; Dante Scala, a UNH professor; Steve Duprey, Republican National Committee member; and Raymond Buckley, Democratic Party state chairman.

Former ambassador George Bruno hosted the group.

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VISITORS FROM D.C: Concord is about to be invaded by Washington, D.C., officials, including the city's mayor, Vance Gray; the chairman of the D.C. Council, Kwame Brown; several other council members; and representatives of the group D.C. Vote.

They will testify before the House State Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee at a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Room 203 of the Legislative Office Building.

They will testify on House Resolution 26, which expresses support for statehood for Washington, D.C.

The resolution is sponsored by Nashua Democrat Cindy Rosenwald, who has sponsored similar resolutions in years past.

Concord is the first stop of a national tour of state legislatures under an effort spearheaded by D.C. Council members Michael A. Brown and David Catania.

Other states slated for a visit include Illinois, Florida, New York, Tennessee, Maryland and Alaska.

Garry Rayno writes State House Dome every week for New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at grayno@unionleader.com.


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