GraniteGrok Analysis: GOP Prez Primary- An October Snapshot

by Doug

Living in the heart of central NH, home of the "almost first in the nation" presidential nominating vote, we always get a front-row seat view of the early political "ground game" as the race to the White House gets cranked up. With a month left until the mid-term elections, the various Republican hopefuls have been busy traveling the country helping congressional candidates in the final stretch, looking for that return favor less than two years from now. This is not to say that the candidates aren’t still working on their own campaigns, it’s just that much of it remains below the radar screen at the moment.
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With the primary still a ways over the horizon, other than polling data, how would one go about designating the so-called frontrunners? One way that seems as good as any other method is to look at who is attracting the technicians that might be instrumental in any NH Republican party campaign. Who is successful in winning over the potential members of a victorious team? One could safely assume that these veterans would be hanging their hats with candidates they perceive as having a fighting chance at winning (except for those in it strictly for the money).
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Making up the most valuable of these highly prized team members are the party regulars- you know, those stuffy "big shots"- persons some might call the “usual suspects.” Although I am a (somewhat) young conservative more true to actual principles and values than I am to the party, and tend to view the rigid party types as too "establishment" for my liking, I do recognize the obvious, immediate benefit they bring to a campaign. With donor lists, phone numbers, and political IOUs in hand, these party apparatchiks can bring instant momentum to any political organization. The candidate that lands such people early in the game can be granted major candidate status because the people concerned want to be with a winner, and they are more privy than the rest of us to the "inside track." Their judgment must be given a degree of credibility. Count almost as important the successful, professional political operatives. They too wish to work for a winner, which always looks better in the portfolio.
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 Another way to roughly gauge a leading contender is the ability to draw a crowd and build excitement.
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Based upon my criteria as noted, I am designating three main Republican frontrunners here in NH as of the start of October.

The candidate pool I am using for this snapshot is the current list of Republican "wannabees" as designated by the website Politics1.com:
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US Senator George Allen (R-Virginia)
US Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas)
US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee)
Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia)
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-New York)
US Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska)
Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas)
US Senator John McCain (R-Arizona)
Governor George Pataki (R-New York)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza "Condi" Rice (R-California)
Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts)
Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado)
Former Governor Tommy Thompson (R-Wisconsin)

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Of the list, the three main frontrunners at this time are:
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1. McCain
2. Romney
3. Giuliani

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Here’s why-
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McCain: He remains a formidable presence here in NH some six years after winning the NH primary. While his maverick ways and contrarian approach to President Bush’s initiatives upset a great number of conservatives (myself included), his independent persona plays well here in the Granite State. With a large number of so-called "independent" voters, a bigger story would be that McCain is NOT popular here. He enhanced his position last week with the announcement that two former state party chairs would be joining a third already on his team. PoliticsNH.com reports 
Three former New Hampshire Republican Party Chairmen, representing 14 years of service, have offered their support to Senator John McCain’s Straight Talk America. Rhona Charbonneau (1989-1993) and Jayne Millerick (2003-2005) will serve as state advisors to guide Senator McCain’s efforts to help elect Republicans up and down the ballot in November’s election. Charbonneau and Millerick join former Republican Party Chair Steve Duprey (1993-2001), who announced his support earlier this year.
Again, this is good news for the McCain grassroots machine here in NH, as these individuals bring many years of party work and service to the table. With well known veterans Mike Dennehy, Chuck Douglas III, and Pat Hynes (another friend to the ‘Grok) rounding out the NH contingent, McCain is the one to beat.
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Romney: As I reported last week, long-time RNC committeeman and consummate party-insider Tom Rath has joined Mitt Romney’s campaign team. While Rath is not my cup of tea, I’m sure that when looking at the mechanics of a campaign, he is a valuable catch. (Click here and scroll down for a view of Rath that mirrors mine) Here in NH, having Rath aboard, Romney makes the "A-list" for sure. Add former NH Republican primary candidate Bruce Keough (who I supported) and grass roots activist (and friend) Rich Killion. Rich is the Vice president of Elevare Communications, a political and strategic communications firm in Concord. He is a major addition in that his resume includes a positions as  Director of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication and director of the Polling Institute at Franklin Pierce. He was the campaign manager for Bruce Keough’s 2002 gubernatorial primary bid.  I met Rich when he was the executive director of N.H.Citizens for a Sound Economy during the 1999-2000 NH primary campaign.
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Guiliani: While he hasn’t yet announced any prominent NH supporters to my knowledge (please email me if you know otherwise), “America’s Mayor” can pack ‘em in. Consider this note, again, from PoliticsNH.com:
Victory NH has rescheduled its inaugural First in the Nation forum featuring former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani from October 12 to November 3, to accommodate unexpected demand for tickets.  The event will take place in Manchester and a specific location will be announced in a few weeks.  Hizzoner will still take part in a fundraiser for New Hampshire House Republicans on October 12.  (9/29)
Some of this popularity has to translate into candidate viability. Name recognition and a good performance during the aftermath of the September 11th attacks give Rudy the “known quantity” edge over others when considering the homeland terror threat we still face.
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There you have it- the GraniteGrok analysis of the moment with the top three Republican “frontrunners” so designated. If asked to go beyond, I would put George Allen and Pataki next with Newt following close behind- but I’ll save any more comment for another day.
GRANITEGROK CAVEAT:
Keep in mind that right now, none of this really matters because the only true way to determine frontrunner status is on Election Day…

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