One GOP candidate has a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the Granite State.
Newt Gingrich recently surged into second place in the latest WMUR/UNH NH Primary Poll and landed the coveted this week.
“I think he got the Union Leader endorsement because he is the conservative that has the best chance of winning the nomination,” said Gingrich’s New Hampshire Director Andrew Hemingway.
The 2012 presidential candidate has had some obstacles in his campaign, but it seems like he has caught up and become a real threat to current front-runner Mitt Romney.
So what is the secret to Gingrich’s success in our state? We talked to and a local political expert to find out.
Stealing the Spotlight
All of the "New Hampshire County Captain" volunteers in Gingrich’s campaign said that his performance during televised debates has played a major role in his rise in the polls.
“He brings everything to another level,” said Colebrook resident Ellie Pearson, who serves as Gingrich’s County Captain in Coos County North and South. “People are looking for somebody to say it like it is and he certainly does that.”
Sullivan County Captain Joe Osgood in Claremont said that more people have been paying attention to Gingrich’s performance during the debates.
“I can't find anybody that would deny that Newt Gingrich is the smartest guy in the room during a debate,” said Osgood. “When you are in trouble, you want to have the smartest guy for the job.”
Hemingway said that the debates have given Gingrich an opportunity to shine with his strong convictions, such as his stance that illegal immigrants who have lived in America for a long time should not immediately be deported.
“Newt is taking very strong positions,” he said. “He is putting out ideas where other candidates are too scared to put out ideas.”
Cheshire County Captain Bill Lonardo in Rindge said that Gingrich’s campaign was hurt when his top campaign staff left earlier this year, but he believes the candidate was starting a different kind of campaign.
“A lot of guys left him because he did not have a lot of money and he was not going to kowtow to them and run a traditional campaign.”
Merrimack County Captain Robert Jursik in Penacook said that, unlike the other candidates, Gingrich has paced his campaign to avoid running out of steam.
“His campaign is really the tortoise campaign, it is slow and steady,” said Jursik. “Everyone else has run this as if it were a sprint, but they are exhausted now.”
Jursik said that voters are looking past the flashy political maneuvers and are starting to take the candidates seriously. While other candidates are focusing on attention-getters like Herman Cain’s 999 Plan during debates, he says Gingrich has chosen consistency in his message.
“It is so apparent sometimes when people give soundbite answers, the ones they think will rally their supporters or work in a commercial,” he said. “Gingrich provides answers that really are answers.”
Better with Age
Supporters of Gingrich also point to his wealth of experience in politics as a key factor.
Grafton County Co-Captain Linda Dupere in Grafton said that if we don’t change the country’s direction, we should just “give up.”
“This country is going down the tubes, we are almost $15 trillion in debt, Obama has run up $5 trillion in his three years and there is no stopping the spending,” she said.
Dupere points to Gingrich’s ability to balance the federal budget four years in a row as a top reason to put him in the Oval Office. She added that Gingrich has detailed plans for change that will begin right when he is elected to office.
Dupere also points to his experience as a professor of history and wealth of knowledge in foreign policy as factors that make him the choice for the Republican nominations.
She said that his extensive experience makes Gingrich the only GOP candidate who can beat Obama and “save us from doom.”
Of course, being in the game this long has given Gingrich plenty of time to make mistakes, such as having an affair with his current wife while he was still with his second.
In speaking with his supporters, they seem eager to look past his personal issues in favor of his leadership experience.
“There is no perfect candidate, but this guy is the guy who can lead the country in the right direction,” said Dupere.
Lonardo said that after the Bill Clinton scandal, he believes people are not as concerned about personal problems in politics. Unlike some who find themselves in hot water, he said that Gingrich has fessed up and apologized for his wrongdoing.
“He knows he has made mistakes,” he said.
Gingrich’s NH State Director admits Gingrich is human and has addressed his past mistakes with openness and honesty.
“He comes out and says, 'look you're right, it was dumb,'” said Hemingway. “We all make mistakes.”
Rockingham County Co-Captain Jeffrey Diggins in Auburn said that a candidate like Mitt Romney doesn’t hold much weight amongst many New Hampshire voters, saying that he is too “wishy-washy” for them.
Diggins is a member of the Tea Party, but said that he won’t just vote for the candidate that claims to be with them. For him, it is more about what the candidate has actually done and the substance behind what they are saying.
“[Gingrich] resonates well with the people of New Hampshire and it is not surprising to me,” said Diggins. “He says what he believes and that is what people like around here.”
Jursik said that even though other candidates, such as Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, are spending a lot of time in New Hampshire, they are not seeing strong results. He believes that Gingrich isn’t in the state as much as them, but makes a strong impression when he is here.
Hemingway said that other candidates do not have as much depth as Gingrich.
“When you talk to Newt, it is not a pre-recorded message,” he said. “When he meets with his people, he actually listens to people.”
Keeping the Momentum
While his campaign volunteers are sure that Gingrich will take hold in New Hampshire, there is no guarantee that his surge in popularity will last.
Dean Spiliotes, a veteran political scientist and political analysis, said that Gingrich can easily lose momentum in New Hampshire if he makes a wrong move.
“He is a pretty experienced politician, but he has a history of tripping himself up at moments,” said Spiliotes.
Spiliotes said that Gingrich’s rise in New Hampshire is a “very interesting phenomenon” that may be due to his debate skills and movement in national polls.
He added that he doesn’t see anything different in his New Hampshire campaign compared to his national efforts, but said that Gingrich needs to shift to “retail politics” in order to continue his rise.
Much like Herman Cain and Rick Perry, he said that Gingrich’s surge could be short-lived and make room for another contender.
“If he runs into problems like these other guys did, he may go down and someone else might pop up,” said Spiliotes.
For now, he sees Gingrich as the candidate for those who are looking for an alternative to Mitt Romney, provided he doesn’t sabotage himself.
“If he can be fairly disciplined as a campaigner, it is an opportunity for sure,” he said. “There isn't much competition left in the ‘Not-Romney’ slot.”
For more information on Newt Gingrich’s campaign in New Hampshire, visit http://www.newthampshire.com/