SEABROOK, N.H. – As Mitt Romney formally announced his presidential bid Thursday, two larger-than-life political personalities crashed into New Hampshire, stealing the nominal front-runner’s thunder and underscoring that the GOP field is far from settled.
Continuing her catch-me-if-you-can bus tour of historical sites on the Eastern seaboard, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hosted a clambake for tea party activists on the seacoast, proclaiming her love for the movement and her goal of highlighting the importance of the American spirit. And former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke to Republicans at a luncheon in the Mount Washington Valley, arguing that America is headed in the wrong direction and that President Barack Obama’s policies were squarely to blame.
As both weigh presidential bids, Giuliani and Palin face challenges in the home of the first-in-the-nation primary – and potential opportunities in reaching groups of voters who are unhappy with the current crop of candidates. But Palin’s potential candidacy, and her decision to visit New Hampshire on the same day that Romney was announcing his campaign, were seen as having greater import.
“I don’t think this is all happening haphazard …. I think it’s all about stirring the pot and sending a warning shot across the bow that she’s still out there and she has the ability to wreak havoc anytime she likes,” said Dante Scala, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. “That’s the message she’s trying to get across to Romney.”
Giuliani and Palin have bridges to mend in New Hampshire.
Palin last visited the state in 2008, when she was the GOP nominee for vice president, and some Republicans believe she has purposely bypassed it ever since.
“She has avoided crossing the border on purpose,” said Fergus Cullen, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. “It’s intentional, and it has been deliberate.”
Success in the New Hampshire primary would be less crucial for Palin – who would likely make a play for the evangelical vote in Iowa and South Carolina – than for Giuliani, whose moderate social policies are anathema to those voters. But despite the former mayor’s assets – his post-9/11 reputation as “America’s Mayor” and his widespread name recognition – he faces a critical problem in the Granite State: He ignored it in his 2008 presidential run, and many voters haven’t forgotten the slight.
Giuliani said he is considering running because the nation is being led in the wrong direction by Obama, who he described as a “failure.” He says he plans to make his decision by the end of the summer.
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