New Hampshire lures Republican presidential hopefuls

* Potential presidential contenders stump for N.H. locals

* Nearly a dozen Republicans seen testing waters

By Ellen Wulfhorst

PORTSMOUTH, N.H., Oct 20 (BestGrowthStock) – Fall foliage lures
visitors to New Hampshire, and this season nearly a dozen top
Republicans have visited the state, not for the colorful leaves
but to gauge support for possible 2012 presidential bids.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney and former U.S. House of Representatives
Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the high-profile figures to
come to the small northeastern state, which wields out-sized
political sway by holding the first U.S. presidential primary.

Pawlenty is due to make his fifth visit this weekend.

“The phrase in New Hampshire is ‘Come early and often,'”
said James Pindell, political director for WMUR, the state’s
only television station.

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Republicans seen to have presidential aspirations are
arriving to bestow endorsements, raise funds and appear with
local candidates running in the Nov. 2 congressional elections,
with an eye to calling in political favors in 2012.

“Everyone loves New Hampshire,” state Republican spokesman
Ryan Williams said. “You get to meet people, you get to develop
a relationship and, if you decide to run for president some
day, hopefully you’ll have the support of people you’ve met
during your trips.”

Republicans are hoping to tap into voter discontent with
President Barack Obama and with the ailing economy to gain
control of the House of Representatives and perhaps even the
Senate in next month’s elections.

“IT’S IN YOUR FACE, ALL THE TIME”

“Everybody’s talking about who’s going to beat Obama,” said
New Hampshire resident Deborah Akmakjian, as she watched
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal stump recently for Republican
gubernatorial candidate John Stephen in Portsmouth.

“Even if I was not going to follow it, they won’t let you
get away with it. It’s in your face, all the time,” she said.

Serious Republican contenders will return when campaign
announcements begin early next year, Williams predicted. “Once
the election is over, if they come to New Hampshire there
really isn’t any other reason to be here,” he said.

New Hampshire’s primary, similar to an election, is
tentatively set for Jan. 24, 2012. Scheduled eight days earlier
is the Iowa caucus, a statewide convention for party members to
select candidates.

New Hampshire voters can register with either party on
primary day, making the contests more unpredictable.

In 2008, Republican Mike Huckabee placed a disappointing
third in New Hampshire after winning Iowa. In 2000, Republican
Senator John McCain won by a wide margin in New Hampshire but
went on to lose the presidential nomination to George W. Bush.

Among Democrats, Obama lost in New Hampshire to Hillary
Clinton after winning in Iowa five days earlier. Former
President Bill Clinton called himself the “Comeback Kid” in
1992 by placing second in New Hampshire after a weak showing in
Iowa.

Jindal, seen by many as a rising Republican star, said in
Portsmouth that he would not run for president in 2012.

But he could be leaving himself open to a run in 2016,
Pindell said. “In this case, if it means he is coming six years
early, I guess it’s never too early,” he said.

Other Republicans visiting the state recently included
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, former Pennsylvania Senator
Rick Santorum, former New York Governor George Pataki,
Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Representative Mike
Pence of Indiana, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and
Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, the state party said.

The decision to venture into New Hampshire can be tricky
because local Republicans tend to be more moderate than
Republicans nationwide, said Dante Scala, political science
professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“A key question for potential candidates coming here is how
much do you tailor your campaign to the New Hampshire
Republican electorate?” he said. “What you say in New Hampshire
may come back and bite you somewhere else. That’s the worry.”

Missing from the visitors’ list so far is former Republican
vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, a staunch conservative
who is endorsing Republican candidates nationwide this year.

“She is not especially well regarded here, even among
Republicans,” Scala said. “I suspect that if she does make a
run, it’s going to be more Iowa-centric.”
(Editing by Mark Egan and Paul Simao)

New Hampshire lures Republican presidential hopefuls