The New Hampshire Republican party drew seven presidential candidates to a town hall held two weeks ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Candidates participating included Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Jim Gilmore. Chris Christie cancelled, returning to New Jersey as a major snowstorm hit his state, with his wife Mary Pat Christie appearing on his behalf.
Monday was the last day of the notion-bending year-long campaign leading to the New Hampshire presidential primary. Republican candidates have for months decried the condition of America, denouncing Barack Obama for what they see as destruction wreaked on the U.S. that has pushed the country to the edge of a precipice. With New Hampshire voting those dire descriptions will end, at least for the Granite State, as the campaign rolls on to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond.
Who’s rising, who’s falling and who will exceed expectations? Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie all had good days in the last moments of the New Hampshire primary, but they face a dual challenge of trying to shove past the other two governors and simultaneously trying to catch up to Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Here are a few impressions from the candidates’ closing appearances.
This small rugged state teeming with presidential aspirants offers visitors unique proximity to question, praise, berate or hug the next American president.
The presidential campaign has been running in high gear for months, but New Yorkers see it only from afar. Candidate visits to New York are almost entirely out of public view, primarily for fundraising and TV appearances. New Yorkers hoping to see candidates in person can visit campaign country, however, with New Hampshire the closest corner of campaign country and just a short drive away.
Sunday 8:15 a.m. – On The Road
Meet a fellow reporter just north of New York City and drive through western Connecticut north into Massachusetts. Watch for the plentiful state troopers on I-91. Don’t let the genius political arguments bandied about distract you from the speedometer.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. – Your New Friend Irving
A stop awaits before the first campaign event – a visit to an Irving, the ubiquitous gas station/convenience store. Gourmet it’s not, but Irving offers a quick, clean stop for hot coffee, cold seltzer and a cellophane wrapped sandwich. With lots of driving between five events efficiency is a key to success. Pro-tip: Always get two sandwiches, one for now, one to tuck in your bag for a pre-candidate town hall boost.
Sunday 1:00 p.m. – Dr. Ben Carson
Keene State College is dead quiet on a Sunday morning, notwithstanding an imminent presidential candidate appearance. With Secret Service protection and security screenings for Carson, entering his town hall is a lengthier process. About 30 minutes ahead of his town hall, only 30 or so people are in the auditorium. “Don’t worry, they’ll be here after church” says an early arrival and indeed a crowd of 200+ materialized by 1:00. Chatting with attendees it appears that his audience is significantly centered around faith, both their own and Carson’s.
Senator Marco Rubio today reiterated that he’s “open … as a last resort” to granting Puerto Rico legal authority to file a bankruptcy petition, but additionally commented that Puerto Rico must first “undertake some very difficult reforms in the way it operates and funds its government.” With proponents of granting Puerto Rico that authority unsuccessful in including it in the recent omnibus spending bill further efforts will likely involve what Rubio is suggesting; significant fiscal controls and limits on Puerto Rico’s borrowing and spending authority as a condition for bankruptcy.
I spoke with Rubio after a presidential campaign appearance in Rochester, New Hampshire.