TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: Adventures in New Hampshire-land

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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MERRIMACK, N.H. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich held an event on Sunday in Manchester to reach out to the Hispanic community — an event that may or may not have contained a handful of actual Hispanics. But the speaker was the sideshow to the Occupy protesters who surrounded the Don Quijote restaurant and made enough noise to distract people from Gingrich.

As I turned toward the window to see the hoopla outside, I could see a “gentleman” carrying a drum banging it in slow motion while mouthing what I believe was “F–k You.” Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn was standing in front of me, so I tapped him on the shoulder and told him it was nice to see his subscribers come out in such large numbers.

Outside after the event, the drum major kept pounding his drum, screaming at the top of his lungs that no one could keep him silent. But he wasn’t the only brilliant mind attached to the Occupy movement expressing themselves in colorful ways at the Gingrich event.

There was the grand wizard of the movement, draped in a red cloak that if white would signal his membership in the Ku Klux Klan. He told me he was actually a Mountain Monk, though I have no idea what that even means.

Then there was the lady holding up a sign that said “evil triumphs when good people do nothing.” This is a paraphrased version of Edmund Burke’s quote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Burke, of course, is an intellectual father of conservatism. So I asked the Occupy protester if she was a big fan of the 18th century conservative philosopher and politician. I was shocked — shocked! — to find out she had never heard of Burke, but hearing that he was conservative she said she probably wouldn’t like his work too much. (RELATED: Full coverage of the New Hampshire primary)

Dancing around in front of a few cameras, the Occupy protesters screamed (and screamed and screamed) “the whole world is watching.” I found that to be a curious notion because it didn’t seem like very many people were actually watching, much less the whole world — even with the few cameras focused on them. Talking to one somewhat normal-looking Occupy protester, it was clarified that it was possible that, in fact, something less than the whole world was watching them.

Welcome to the primary circus.

I arrived at the New Hampshire circus the day of the of the Iowa caucuses. I write this to let my parents know that I am still alive.

During the week before the New Hampshire primary, I have learned that fire codes apparently have no meaning in New Hampshire — candidate town halls are often so packed you can’t move.

But the dirty little secret is that the large crowds are often composed of non-New Hampshirites. Many are filled with what you may term political tourists. It isn’t unheard of for nearly half of an audience to be made up of those who can’t even vote in the primary on Tuesday.

For the candidates’ purposes, this is a double-edged sword. They obviously want to speak to more voters than voyeurs. But they also like the media to report about the overflowing audiences, and on that count, the composition of the crowds doesn’t matter too much.

Ron Paul even ships in loads of enthusiastic out-of-state volunteers, which significantly inflated the numbers at the one Paul rally I attended on Friday. They refused to talk to reporters and The Daily Caller later learned that many had signed non-disclosure agreements with the campaign promising not to talk to the press. The fiery Texas congressman may love freedom abstractly, but he apparently doesn’t want his supporters to let their freak flag fly with the media.

Officially, the campaign told TheDC that the agreements are to protect “proprietary technology.” You try to figure that out.

But Paul isn’t the only one getting help making his events seem larger than they are. In at least one instance, it appears that Rick Santorum may have chosen a smaller venue when a larger one was available in order to project an image of overflow crowds, according to reporting by Yahoo! News.

Speaking of Santorum, I (along with TheDC’s Will Rahn) almost pulled a fast one on the Pennsylvania senator.

We left a Santorum town hall early to get over to a diner the senator was scheduled to campaign at. We secured a lunch table and had some food while waiting for the senator to arrive. When he came in with the press following him, he immediately began shaking hands of the patrons. When he got to our table, I shook his hand before sticking a recorder in his face to get him to answer a question.

But the duplicity was for naught. Santorum smiled with masked annoyance and said just because we bought lunch at the diner didn’t mean we would get to ask a question. He then turned away to meet actual New Hampshirites.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has the potential to be the Rick Santorum of the Granite State. Polls show that he may be experiencing a mini-surge that could propel him into third or even second place. He and his campaign spent Monday taking Mitt Romney’s words out of context to suggest the former Massachusetts governor enjoys firing workers.

I met up with Huntsman at a press availability outside a bakery he was visiting in Nashua and asked him if he would consider Romney as his running mate if he somehow won the nomination. It seemed like a funny question considering Huntsman’s obvious disdain for the man. Laughing, Huntsman said he had no intention of going there before proceeding into the bakery.

Meanwhile, Romney has been prancing through New Hampshire with an all-star gang of conservative political superstars — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, to name a few. Compare that, for instance, to Newt Gingrich, who has the failed New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino flacking for him.

At a Sunday Romney event with Christie and New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in Exeter, the gap between Romney’s professional operation and everyone else’s operation was all too evident. Romney is running a presidential campaign against President Obama, and even the campaign’s Bar Mitzvah-inspired playlist of music (including “Pump up the Jam” and “Celebration”) doesn’t subtract from that reality. It may add to it. The other candidates, while impressive in their own ways, can’t come close to matching the professional look of team Romney at this point.

This, of course, also speaks to one of Romney’s weaknesses — everything looks so manufactured, including the candidate.

It’s hard to imagine that Romney loses Tuesday, given his current significant lead in the polls. Whether that means he will continue to glide toward the nomination without much trouble isn’t entirely certain, though most political observers surely expect it.

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