By Adam Reilly
June 3, 2011
BOSTON — The New Hampshire primary season had a slow start this year, but all of a sudden the Granite State is in the throes of a political frenzy. Eight Republican presidential hopefuls visited this week, including former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — who just happened to be passing through on the same day Romney launched his campaign.
Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain also passed through New Hampshire in the past few days, but the big political event of the week was Mitt Romney’s official campaign kickoff earlier today at a Stratham farm.
“I’m Mitt Romney. I believe in America. And I’m running for president of the United States,” Romney said.
In his speech, Romney paid homage to American greatness — and hammered President Obama as a power-mad bureaucrat who’s ravaged the US economy.
"This president’s first answer to every problem is to take power from you and from your local government and from your state so that his so-called experts in Washington can make decisions for you. (Boos.) And with each of those decisions, we lose more of our freedom," Romney said.
Governor Romney is the prohibitive favorite in the Granite State. He came in second in New Hampshire in 2008 and early polls show him with a relatively commanding lead this time around as well. But Republican power broker Ovide Lamontagne warns that Romney shouldn’t take New Hampshire for granted.
“He needs to win New Hampshire, but right now I would say the vast majority of Republican primary voters are undecided. In fact polling shows 90 percent of primary voters are not committed to a candidate yet,” Lamontagne said.
Between this uncertainty and Romney’s controversial record on healthcare reform, Lamontagne says there’s still time for another candidate to take New Hampshire by storm. But he adds that window of opportunity is closing.
“It’s getting late. A lot of operatives are signing on with campaigns, a lot of activists are already committing. It’s time for people who are serious to get in now,” Lamontagne said.
That brings us to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. After hitting the Freedom Trail in Boston, Palin took her family and her bus to New Hampshire for a clambake. If her goal was to steal a bit of Romney’s thunder, she accomplished her mission.
“What will do you do if you run into Mitt Romney in New Hampshire?” asked one reporter.
“ I’ll shake his hand, I’ll say hi to him and best of luck,” Palin answered.
Even if Palin jumps in, WMUR.com political analyst James Pindell says there’s no question Romney is the New Hampshire frontrunner. But he says he still has reason for concern.
“There is a troubling trend in our polling. He went from 40 percent in February, he’s now down to 33 percent,” Pindell said.
Consequently, Pindell says a dark horse could still give Romney a run for his money, maybe someone like former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
“Jon Huntsman has the ability of being either an eight on a scale of 1 to 10 or a 1. There’s a big difference. But we know Mitt Romney’s stuck at about a 4.5,” Pindell said.
But with some rivals dithering and others self-destructing, that may be enough to make Romney the nominee.
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