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Media panel: No filter on campaigns in NH

Sunday News Correspondent

April 18. 2015 9:44PM

NASHUA - A panel of journalists weighed in at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit on Saturday on the 2016 election - including the Granite State's unique role in the political process.

"Very few people in New Hampshire read the New York Times," said the New Hampshire Union Leader's Drew Cline. "They have a better newspaper here in New Hampshire."

Moderated by former Florida Republican congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, the panel featured Cline, Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard and Fox News, and Independent Journal Review founder Alex Skatell.

Cline stressed the importance of the Granite State in national politics. "The candidates come here, and the voters get to decide for themselves, and not by the media narrative," he said. Cline also said he disagreed with the notion that the nation's first primary would be better suited to a larger state with more representatives.

"In a large state, the only interactions that you're going to get, for the most part, are filtered through the media," he said. "In New Hampshire, you don't have to have a filter."

Cline's panel mates echoed the value of the New Hampshire primary.

"One woman yesterday asked Jeb Bush what I think a lot of people are asking: Is this going to be a coronation on the Republican side?" Hayes said. "She asked him that directly, (and) I thought he answered her pretty well, but it's important to see candidates in that way and interact with them."

Skatell discussed the changing media and how sites like his will affect the presidential race.

"I think the biggest change you'll see in 2016 is, you guys yourselves are actually a news source," he told the crowd. "And I think that's what we really capitalize on. We're just trying to kind of tell a visual story, and people want to share that with their friends and family. That's really going to change the balance of power, because the largest distribution channel is now in everyone's hands. ... I think it's really going to change how campaigns are covered forever."

"You really are knocking down the walls," Scarborough said to Skatell. "Not so long ago, a lot of us can remember when the only news sources we had were CBS, ABC, NBC, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. That was it."

The panel also discussed a handful of GOP hopefuls.

"In '94, when Jeb was running for governor (of Florida), we all laughed and said, 'Well, if his last name wasn't Bush, he'd never be here,'?" Scarborough said. "Now it's almost like you get the feeling if his last name wasn't Bush, he would be in a much stronger position."

"He has a built-in impression," Cline said of Jeb Bush. "He has to erase an identity that people already have, and then create a new one."

Hayes said he'd heard many at the summit say they were going to give a "second look" to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after his speech on Friday evening, and that he wouldn't be counting Christie out just yet.

"When I hear the national media declare somebody dead, it's sort of my signal to pay more attention," he said.

Hayes also called Donald Trump "a clown," which was met with applause.

"Sometimes he says things that people find refreshing because he's blunt and candid, but I don't think he's a conservative," he said. "I think he's a conservative of convenience."

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