Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mitt Romney And The New Hampshire Tea Party

There was much speculation about Mitt Romney being in trouble in New Hampshire even before the 2012 elections have begun due because hadn't met with a few influential leaders of the New Hampshire Tea Party: 
New Hampshire Tea Party movement activist Andrew Hemingway is not lacking in contact with likely presidential candidates. He’s talked hockey with Tim Pawlenty. He sat down with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum at the Concord Country Club. And plans are in the works for Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to appear before a group of Hemingway’s fellow conservatives. 
A notable exception among the field of would-be GOP presidential contenders? Mitt Romney. 
“Romney for the most part is inaccessible,’’ said Hemingway, a Bristol resident who is chairman of the state’s Republican Liberty Caucus. “Pawlenty, I could call him right now and say, ‘Let’s have coffee.’ ’’
The idea that Mitt Romney was not accessible is not true. 
Not only was Mitt Romney accessible but he was incredibly active in that state. He endorsed 33 New Hampshire Candidates and donated a total of $40,000 to the various candidates during the 2010 midterm election. Moreover, he gave an address at the Republican Party convention
As a result of Mitt Romney's efforts in that state, it shouldn't be a surprise that the former Massachusetts governor won the first ever New Hampshire Republican GOP straw poll. Not only did Mitt Romney win the straw poll, but he won the straw poll by a large margin. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone since his victory has been consistent with several polls showing Mitt Romney recieving a wide margin of support in that state. 
A PPP poll taken in September 17th 2010 showed that not only was Mitt ahead in the polls in New Hampshire but that he took the lead in support among Tea Party members: 
"Meanwhile, Mitt Romney continues to look like the overwhelming early favorite for the 2012 Republican primary in New Hampshire, the second state in the presidential coronation process.
He leads with 41% to 12% for Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, 10% for Mike Huckabee, 8% for Ron Paul, 5% for Tim Pawlenty, and 2% for Mitch Daniels.
"The best news in the poll for Romney is that at least in New Hampshire he has a strong advantage with every different faction of the party," PPP said.
"With voters who identify themselves as Tea Party members he leads Palin 36-18. He also has a 29-18 advantage over her with people who think the GOP’s too liberal. At the same time he’s up 47-15 on Gingrich with people who think the party’s just fine ideologically and he leads Ron Paul 47-10 with moderates," it noted.
With Romney leading the race in New Hampshire, the polling firm speculates some presidential candidates may ignore New Hampshire and focus their resources on other states where they may have a chance to see their standing improve, such as Iowa, South Carolina and Florida."
On November 3rd 2010, CNN conducted a poll and found Mitt Romney with a substantial lead over his potential 2010 competitors. Less than a week later, PPP released another poll on November 9th, 2010 showing Mitt Romney receiving 40% of the vote among New Hampshire voters. More recently on January 6, 2011, a survey commissioned by the NH Journal and conducted by Magellan Strategies showed that Mitt Romney still maintained a substantial lead over his competitors in that state. 
In contrast, Sarah Palin, hasn't been very active in New Hampshire:
That’s because in all of her travels since the 2008 election – during the midterm campaign and across two expansive book tours – the former Alaska governor has not once set foot in the first-in-the-nation primary state. And residents have noticed.
In fact, many Tea Partiers in New Hampshire feel that she's intentionally snubbing the state: 
Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, sees New Hampshire’s omission from Palin’s schedule as a deliberate political choice and argues: “This isn’t by accident. … They’ve made a decision not to come to New Hampshire, and people have noticed.”
“Palin is almost being mocked, openly, by a lot of observers for the extent to which she has ignored New Hampshire and pretends it doesn’t exist,” Cullen said. “People crack jokes about it — political reporters, elected officials. Not just staff, not just activists.”
The idea that Mitt Romney doesn't have the support of Tea Partiers is not true. The straw poll combined with the various polls conducted by various polling firms clearly show that Mitt Romney has the support of a wide range of conservatives in New Hampshire. In a state where the state GOP leader is a Tea Partier and the Tea Party movement is strong, Mitt cannot be simply pegged as an "establishment" candidate. He's also a Tea Partier too.
There's an important political lesson to be drawn here. Simply meeting with "influential" leaders is not enough to win a poll or an election. Relying on your political star power is insufficient in winning an election. And visiting a particular state a few times isn't going to cut it either. 
People want to see a candidate who has a sincere interest in the political affairs of their state. They want to see a politician who is willing to roll up their sleeves and help conservative politicians win at the ballot box at all levels of government. They want to see the candidate come to conventions, rallies and fundraisers. They want to shake hands with them and briefly chat with him.
That's why isn't just an establishment candidate or a Tea Party candidate. Regular conservatives, Independents, and even moderate liberals like Mitt Romney. The reason why he has such a broad appeal is because he would rather meet with ordinary like minded people than meet with "influential" leaders of a political group or organization.

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