New Hampshire GOP Takes Early Look At 2012
LIANE HANSEN, host:
Even before the State of the Union, the ground is being laid for the 2012 campaign. As always, New Hampshire is likely to play a key role. This weekend, Granite State Republicans elected a new state party chairman. The local headlines will tell you that a Tea Party favorite won that contest. Others will tell you that Mitt Romney won a somewhat meaningless presidential poll.
New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers was there.
JOSH ROGERS: In New Hampshire's first ever presidential straw poll, Mitt Romney bested his nearest rivals, Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty, by 20-plus points. That result isnt much of a surprise; Romney was governor of neighboring Massachusetts. But even so, New Hampshire State Senator Jack Barnes, who backs Romney, sees the results as a kind of talisman.
State Senator JACK BARNES (Republican, New Hampshire): Romney and Pawlenty, thats the ticket. It should just be automatic.
Unidentified Man: Romney and Palin for vice president.
State. Sen. BARNES: Oh, Jesus.
ROGERS: But we are a year away from the primary. More front and center is the battle for state Republican chairman.
(Soundbite of chanting, "Jack")
ROGERS: The chanting was for Jack Kimball, the Tea Party activist who upset Juliana Bergeron, a self-described Goldwater girl, who was favored by much of the establishment, including outgoing party Chairman John H. Sununu. Prior to the vote, Sununu all but told party regulars a Kimball victory could jeopardize local Republican gains that were made in the 2010 elections.
Mr. JOHN H. SUNUNU (Chairman, Republican Party, New Hampshire): We dont want to be seen as a party that's a sliver of a party, because we cannot win without the support of those independents and Democrats who came and joined us this year.
ROGERS: When Kimball spoke he, too, stressed the need for party unity - but he didnt stop there.
Mr. JACK KIMBALL (Chairman-Elect, Republican Party, New Hampshire): This is also about liberty. This is also about freedom. That, plus our Constitution, will be at the forefront of my mind. It is a new day in the State of New Hampshire.
(Soundbite of cheering and applause)
ROGERS: But if there's any doubt about the significance of electing a new, New Hampshire Republican Party chairman, it was dismissed by a phone call from a prospective friend and prospective presidential candidate, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Mr. KIMBALL: Let's just say thats the conversation I just had. So yes, he was congratulating me and told me he's looking forward to working with me, as we go down the road.
ROGERS: Kimball is likely to receive plenty more congratulatory calls, perhaps from Mitt Romney, maybe from Sarah Palin in this state that holds the first presidential primary a year from now.
For NPR News, Im Josh Rogers in Concord, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.