Is the Granite State getting “overlooked” by the Republican presidential campaigns as they prioritize Iowa over New Hampshire, as one major media outlet suggests?
If so, that is news to Vivek Ramaswamy, the entrepreneur and frequent Fox News guest who has surged into third place in the RealClearPolitics.com polling average.
“Vivek has had north of 65 events in New Hampshire–dwarfing the events others in this race have spent in the state. Vivek loves the Live Free or Die State,” Ramaswamy spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin told NHJournal.
“In fact, Vivek is getting an apartment in New Hampshire soon.”
A story by the Associated Press’s Steve Peoples published over the weekend claimed that “this year, New Hampshire’s primary tradition may be little more than a fairy tale as the presidential field largely overlooks the Granite State.” It noted that “no fewer than eight Republican White House hopefuls” were in Iowa for the Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting.
And Peoples wrote, “Republican presidential candidates and their allies have reserved almost $30 million in TV, radio and online advertising across Iowa compared to $19 million in New Hampshire for the period beginning Sunday through the primary phase of the campaign, according to an AP analysis of AdImpact data.”
Total ad spending thus far is $38 million in Iowa and less than $23 million in New Hampshire.
Granite State GOP sources dismissed the article as misguided at best.
“They know Iowa has twice our population, right?” New Hampshire GOP chair Chris Ager said when asked about the AP’s “overlooked” argument. “They’ve got 99 counties. We’ve got 10.”
And while New Hampshire doesn’t have many multiple-candidate cattle call events, every Republican candidate other than former President Donald Trump has committed to participate in next month’s New Hampshire GOP’s FITN Leadership Summit.
“We’ve got Republican leaders and presidential candidates all coming to provide their vision for moving the country forward,” Ager said.
Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, found the AP’s claim puzzling.
“I don’t know what to say other than this just isn’t true. There are so many candidates meeting voters in New Hampshire that it’s hard to actually eat a meal at the Red Arrow Diner,” Levesque said.
St. Anselm College, home of the NHIOP, has already hosted every major Republican candidate, including Trump. Most of the candidates have made multiple appearances, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is scheduled to speak at one of the iconic “Politics and Eggs” breakfasts this Wednesday, hosted by the NHIOP and the New England Council.
According to his campaign, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has made 23 stops in the state since his formal launch, and he has more events coming up in the Granite State as well.
“When you start talking about states like New Hampshire with the First in the Nation, you got to show up and answer questions,” DeSantis said during a recent WMUR interview. “You got to go to events; you got to be here. Nobody is entitled to be nominated, much less elected president.”
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has seen an uptick in support since the first GOP debate. She has made more than 40 appearances in the Granite State and is set to return later this week.
“We have county chairs in all 10 New Hampshire counties activating their grassroots networks, and by the end of this week, we’ll have done well over 50 events in the Granite State,” said Haley spokesperson Ken Farnaso. “The only way to win is to show up and work hard.”
And while the AP claimed former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “had New Hampshire to himself this week,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum was in the Granite State campaigning last week. (Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also set an attendance record at a traditionally GOP event hosted by former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on Wednesday.)
Asked if candidates are pushing New Hampshire to the back burner, he quickly replied, “Not by our campaign.
“This is our third trip since the last debate that we’ve been here, and we continue to prioritize [this state],” Burgum said during an NHJournal podcast interview. “The people in these two early states, Iowa and New Hampshire, are engaged. They meet the candidates and ask penetrating questions. This is the group that should be narrowing the field.”
And, Burgum added, “We’re going to be on the ballot in New Hampshire no matter what. We’re going to be on the ballot in Iowa no matter what.” That’s regardless of whether he can continue to meet the Republican National Committee’s requirements to make the debate stage, Burgum said.
The premise of the “POTUS candidates passing on New Hampshire” argument is that evangelical-rich Iowa presents a better chance to stop the Trump juggernaut. Supporters of the Iowa focus point out that Trump lost it to Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016.
But polls show that Trump’s favorable rating among Republicans in both states is around 60 percent. And the RCP average has Trump with about a 30-point lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Christie certainly believes he has a chance to trip up Trump in the Granite State.
“If the nominee is Donald Trump, we’re going to lose the general election. And I think that’s tragic for the country and for our party, but I think it’s completely avoidable,” Christie told the AP. “But if it’s gonna start, it’s gonna start here.”
Veteran New Hampshire political insider Tom Rath shrugged off the entire conversation.
“To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the demise of First in the Nation primary are highly exaggerated. This story must sit perennially in the files of certain news agencies to be trotted out every cycle,” Rath said.
“The New Hampshire primary is doing just fine. We are getting plenty of visits, WMUR-TV is making lots of money, the NHIOP is fully booked, the leaves are starting to turn colors, and it is hard to walk into a restaurant and not meet a candidate.
“Every cycle is different, driven by the particulars of each race, but New Hampshire’s engagement remains robust and unique,” Rath added. “We will have a huge turnout, and we will stay unpredictable right until the end. And we will still matter — a lot.”
Burgum was on the same page.
“New Hampshire has shown in the past its ability to help select great candidates to lead this country, particularly during times of need. And I know they’ll do it again this January.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story had the wrong date for the Sen. Tim Scott “Politics and Eggs” speech. We regret the error.