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John DiStaso's Granite Status: Romney, Obama camps step up 'ground war' with legions of volunteers

Senior Political Reporter

September 14. 2012 1:52PM

FRIDAY, SEPT. 14, UPDATE: SIXTH NH VISIT FOR BIDEN. Vice President Joe Biden will make his sixth visit of 2012 to the state next Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21 and 22, the Obama campaign said today.

His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will be with him.

The Obama campaign said details of the Biden visit are not yet available.

Biden was in Portsmouth on Jan. 27, Manchester on Feb. 23, Exeter on April 12, Keene on May 22 and accompanied President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and his wife to Portsmouth on Sept. 7.

(Earlier updates and the full Sept. 13 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 13, UPDATE: THE GROUND GAME. The battle for New Hampshire is not only taking place over the airwaves. There's a ground 'war' underway, too, as the two presidential campaigns spend the weekends leading to Nov. 6 trying to meet, greet and make in-person attempts to convince as many Granite Staters as possible to vote for their candidate.

New Hampshire has long been known as a "retail-politics" state, and while broadcast and web advertising and social media contact are keys to a strong campaign, the personal touch still counts here.

The Republican National Committee says it has now made more than 500,000 'voter contacts' in the state. The record was set during a Sept. 8 'Super Saturday' effort that had a legion volunteers knock on doors from the North Country to the Hillsborough area.

'That is five times more phone calls and 10 more door knocks than at this point during the 2008 race,' the RNC said.

Ann Romney and former Gov. John H. Sununu, a top Romney supporter, also met with volunteers in Stratham at a Republican women's group event.

The RNC said it has 55,000 volunteers nationally and has knocked on about 2.5 million doors across the country.

'The Republican operation is far ahead of 2008 by every metric,' said RNC spokesman Tommy Schultz, crediting 'energized grassroots volunteers.'

The Obama campaign has been operating in the state for about a year and a half, setting up and beginning operations even as Republicans battled in the first-in-the-nation primary campaign. Its grassroots effort now operates out of 22 New Hampshire offices.

Obama campaign officials won't disclose their number of voter contacts but say they have another major grassroots effort slated for Saturday.

Volunteers will go door to door in more than 25 communities in several regions of the state. In each area, volunteers will talk about a different subject covered by President Barack Obama in his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6.

Volunteers going door-to-door will discuss manufacturing in the Monadnock Region towns of Harrisville, Bennington and Keene; education in the Merimack Valley and the Lakes Region, going door to door in Laconia, Concord, Plymouth, Barnstead and Hooksett; the deficit in Nashua, Bedford, Manchester, Derry, Merrimack, Windham, Amherst and New Boston; and infrastructure in Plymouth, Enfield, Littleton, Hanover and Berlin.

For the next eight weeks, Granite Staters can expect personal visits, phone calls and mail, in addition to the usual barrage of broadcast advertising.

(An earlier update and the full Sept. 13 Granite Status follow.)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 13, UPDATE: McCAIN RETURNS TO NH. John McCain will return to New Hampshire on Monday to host town hall meetings at three VFW halls on behalf of Mitt Romney, the Romney campaign said today.

The Arizona senator is slated to make appearances at Nashua VFW 483 on Quincy Street at 10 a.m., the Franklin VFW 1698 on Peabody Place at 1 p.m. and the Portsmouth VFW 168 on Deer Street at 4:30 p.m. The events are open to the public but the campaign says that space is limited and asks for RSVPs to www.mittromney/com/states/new-hampshire.

The town halls will be familiar settings for McCain, who did hundreds of town halls during his runs for President during the 2000 and 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary campaigns.

(The full Sept. 13 Granite Status follows.)

THURSDAY, SEPT. 13: HUGE WINS ON BOTH SIDES. Ovide Lamontagne and Maggie Hassan were powered to landslide primary wins Tuesday by huge victories in the state's largest cities and towns.

It all began in Manchester, where hometown boy Lamontagne rolled over Kevin Smith, 78 to 21 percent, and where Hassan, who is also basing her campaign there and taking advantage of a strong organization, won 63 percent of the vote to 27 percent for Jackie Cilley.

In Nashua, Lamontagne beat Smith, 65 to 34 percent, while Hassan crushed Cilley, 68 to 24 percent.

Lamontagne more than doubled Smith's vote in Derry, while Hassan won the key town by a more than 3-1 margin.

Smith won by only 10 votes in his hometown of Litchfield and by less than 100 votes (1,170 to 1,087) in Londonderry, where he grew up, graduated from high school and is still 'the voice of the Lancers.' Hassan won Londonderry by nearly 4-1, 760 to 209.

Lamontagne won Merrimack 1,635 to 659, while Hassan won there, 767 to 240. And in Goffstown, Lamontagne won, 1,301 to 490, while Hassan won, 605 to 255.

'RADICAL!' You'll be reading and hearing that word often - very often - from both candidates for governor and their campaigns for the next eight weeks.

It's going to be a classic case of each side trying to marginalize the other on the left and right.

Lamontagne will try to portray Hassan as a typical liberal big government taxer, will question the sincerity of her no-broad-based tax pledge and will no doubt recall her plan for what the GOP calls 'MaggieCare,' a 2010 bill (which failed) to set up a government commission to regulate health care costs.

Expect him to portray Hassan as 'part of the 'We're Going to Tax That' team.'

Hassan already began her line of attack on Tuesday night, citing GOP intent to repeal the kindergarten requirement and Lamontagne's strong pro-life (or as she puts it, anti-women's health) position as being out of step with mainstream New Hampshire.

She'll also try to portray Lamontagne as a rubber stamp for the GOP Legislature, contrasting his 'Tea Party way' with her 'New Hampshire way.'

While Lamontagne will tie Hassan to 'the liberal bosses in Concord' and President Barack Obama, Hassan will tie Lamontagne to House Speaker Bill O'Brien, Mitt Romney and the Tea Party.

And with both the Washington-based Republican and Democratic governors associations targeting the election, there should be plenty of outside independent expenditures on television advertising, mail and the like.

Hassan will be helped by several pro-choice and pro-same sex marriage groups, such as EMILY's List and the Human Rights Committee, while Lamontagne will see his share of help from conservative organizations outside the state's borders.

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INCOME TAX REFERENDUM? While Hassan's win on the Democratic side can be largely credited to her well-funded campaign and superior get-out-the-vote organization (and, as a Hassan campaign official said, 'A great candidate'), there is also the income tax issue.

It's been long resolved on the Republican side. But was Tuesday night the death knell for any serious future pro-income/sales tax effort among Democrats?

Conventional wisdom had Democratic voters pretty much split 50-50 on the income tax issue.

Hassan took the no-broad-based-tax pledge and won 54 percent of the vote.

Cilley refused to take the pledge while not specifically proposing a broad-based tax. Bill Kennedy proposed an income tax.

They combined for 46 percent of the Democratic vote.

Not quite a split, but not too far from one, either.

In the Democratic Party, the fact that New Hampshire is a no-broad-based tax state is now 'a cultural thing,' said Democratic National Committeewoman and former NHDP chair Kathy Sullivan.

'At this point it's become a cultural identity that this is the way it is,' she said.

'A lot of Democrats are in agreement that there should not be an income tax,' Sullivan said. 'And a lot of Democrats recognize the majority of people in the state are opposed. So, they say take that issue and put it aside so it is not an issue in the (general election) campaign.'

She said that for a Democrat to win a statewide New Hampshire race, 'You have to run the perfect race, so why take on that added weight?

'Now it becomes about all these other issues, and when that's the focus, we know what happens.'

We'll see what happens, but what has happened is that Democrats John Lynch and Jeanne Shaheen won seven of the last eight governor's elections.

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GLEEFUL. OK, so NHDP Chair Raymond Buckley wasn't exactly giddy over the fact that Democratic turnout blew away the pre-primary predictions.

But he was very pleased. One might say gleeful.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner predicted only 66,000 Democratic votes would be cast on Tuesday, as compared to 102,000 Republican votes.

He slightly underestimated the GOP turnout, as, according to official results, 108,788 GOP votes were cast for governor.

But it turns out that 85,208 votes were cast in the Democratic governor's race, about 25 percent more than predicted.

It was the highest Democratic state primary total since 1992 and the second-highest in at least 40 years.

'Democrats,' said Buckley, 'are jazzed up.' He credited the interest to the primary coming so soon after the Democratic National Convention and to strong get-out-the-vote operations by Hassan and Cilley.

Buckley said that when the Obama campaign gets into the GOTV act on Nov. 6, the Democratic turnout will be much larger.

Still, Republicans did what they usually do, outdraw Democrats in primaries.


Well, for one thing, there are more than 30,000 more Republican voters in the state than Democrats. (As of January, 38.5 percent of voters in New Hampshire were independents, 32.8 percent were Republicans and 28.6 percent were Democrats.)

And Republicans, as they usually do, had many more contested races down the ballot (60 in the New Hampshire House, for instance, as compared to 12 for Democrats and eight in the state Senate as compared to one for Democrats.)

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MAGGIE STANDS ALONE. If Hassan wins on Nov. 6, she will be the only woman Democratic governor in the nation.

If she loses, it would leave the Democratic Party without a woman governor for the first time in 17 years, according to Bloomberg News.

There are four Republican women governors, all of whom won in 2010.

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UNITY. Both state political parties will hold unity breakfasts this morning.

Republicans will gather at the Manchester Country Club and will hear from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as the keynote speaker.

Democrats will keep it local, hearing only from the candidates on their ticket at the Puritan Backroom conference center.

Cilley and Smith will be at their respective breakfasts. And while Cilley's political future is unclear, for Smith, today marks the beginning of the next phase of his political career.

Although it didn't show in the numbers, he ran a solid race. He focused on the issues, issued detailed plans and showed himself to have command of those issues as an effective speaker and debater.

'I have no regrets,' he told the Status Wednesday. 'I feel that we ran the strongest campaign we could have possibly run and I feel great about our effort.'

While Lamontagne gladly accepted Smith's offer to help in the general election, Smith's precise role has yet to be determined.

As for the future, Smith isn't 'ruling anything out.' And while it's obviously too soon to talk specifics, suffice it to say voters in the state should expect to be hearing from him for a long time to come.

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IN THE HOUSE. House Speaker Bill O'Brien went door-to-door in his district over the past few weeks and it paid off.

The controversial speaker ended up polling better in New Boston than he did in his hometown of Mont Vernon.

Of course, his two primary opponents were also from Mont Vernon, so it's logical that the vote there would be more spread out.

He and his former chief of staff, Bob Mead, move to the general election ballot.

In New Boston, O'Brien collected 468 votes, Mead had 196 and John Quinlan had 162. In Mont Vernon, O'Brien received 232; Mead, 182; and Quinlan, 164.

O'Brien's even 700-vote total, by the way, out-polled Lamontagne's 685 and state Senate candidate Andy Sanborn's 633 in that district.

A group of GOP House members who signed a right-to-work pledge sponsored by the New England Right-to-Work campaign, but then voted against 'RTW' legislation, lost their primaries: Russell Day of Goffstown, David Welch of Kingston, Richard Dwinell of Fitzwilliam, Karen Hutchinson of Londonderry and Tony Soltani of Epsom.

According to the House Speaker's Office, other GOP incumbents who lost include House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Chair Elaine Swinford of Center Barnstead, Peter Bolster of Alton, Bill Remick of Lancaster, Laura Gandia of Litchfield, Randy Brownrigg and Jonathan Maltz of Hudson, Jerry Bergevin of Manchester, Donna Mauro of Windham, Joanne Ward of Stratham, Marie Sapienza of Hampstead, Kirsten Larsen-Schutz of Somersworth, Julie Brown of Rochester and Barry Palmer of Nashua.

Among the Democratic incumbents who lost were Helen Deloge of Concord, Chris Serlin of Portsmouth and Jenna Roberts of Durham.

Nine of the above were victimized in 'member-vs.-member' primaries, set up by redistricting.

Democratic former House Finance Committee chair Maggie Smith of Durham won her primary, by the way.

And, New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality says that 30 of the 40 GOP House candidates it helped with positive mail, funded by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer's $100,000 contribution to the PAC, won their primaries.

The group also helped Republican state Rep. John Reagan, who narrowly won his District 17 state Senate primary against Howard Pearl.

That, notes NHRFE, is a 73 percent success rate.

All of those helped by the NHRFE voted against efforts to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law.

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IN THE SENATE. The biggest surprise of the nine (eight GOP and one Democratic) state Senate primaries was state Rep. Sam Cataldo's win over former Sen. Dick Green in District 6.

The margin of former Sen. Andy Sanborn's win over state Rep. Ken Hawkins in the bitter District 9 contest (61 to 28 percent, with 10 percent for Michael Kenney) was also unexpected. Apparently, the huge amount of mail attacking Hawkins by outgoing Sen. Jim Forsythe's Liberty PAC, the Conservative Senate PAC and the New Hampshire Citizens for Truth PAC was effective.

The jury is out on how well a four-page, hand-written 'Dear Neighbor' letter by Sanborn's wife, Laurie, sat with the voters. But apparently, it didn't hurt.

State House Reporter Garry Rayno has a complete report on the final totals in the state Senate primaries elsewhere in today's editions and on

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ON THE COUNCIL. The shocker among the three Executive Council primaries, of course, was Republican Hillsborough County Treasurer and Bedford resident Bob Burns 99-vote win over Manchester state Sen. Tom De Blois.

We know of no 'experts' who predicted he'd win and many believed he'd finish third, behind restaurant owner and fellow Bedford resident Chuck Rolecek.

Democrats believe Burns is the most vulnerable of the three GOP candidates who were lined up to face its unchallenged nominee, Puritan Backroom owner Chris Pappas. Although the district has a higher GOP registration than Democratic, Pappas believes attaching the Tea Party label to Burns will help his cause.

That was clear in Pappas' first general election fund-raising e-mail Wednesday, with the subject line, 'This is crazy.'

Incumbent Ray Burton's 71 to 29 percent win over Jerry Thibodeau in the District 1 GOP race was not surprising, while Colin Van Ostern's 63 to 30 percent win in the District 2 race over former councilor John Shea was impressive and bodes well for his general election chances in what is now, thanks to redistricting, a heavily Democratic district.

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John DiStaso is senior political reporter of the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at Twitter: @jdistaso.

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