With Candidate 'Cattle Call,' N.H. GOP Summit Kicks Off Primary Season

Apr 16, 2015

The First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit will be held April 17-18 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua.
Credit New Hampshire Republican Party

The state Republican Party kicks off its First in the Nation Leadership Summit in Nashua Friday.

Virtually every Republican thought to be considering a presidential run is scheduled to speak at the two-day event.

James Pindell covers the New Hampshire primary for the Boston Globe.

He joined Morning Edition to give us his take on this weekend’s summit.

What is this summit all about?

This is really a kickoff weekend for the New Hampshire primary. We have 19 different candidates who are showing up, two who are not attending this event. Besides that, everyone’s going to be here.

At heart, though, are really two different things for these candidates. One, it’s a fundraiser for the state Republican Party. That’s what’s going on here. They’re the ones putting on this event. Second, this is a chance for these candidates to talk with a lot of media. This is going to be a big media event. Clearly, with 19 candidates, people from all over are going to be coming here to cover this event.

So it’s a clearinghouse for candidates as far access to the media and thereby voters, but it’s also a way for the state GOP to raise its profile, I imagine.

Absolutely. This is what we call a “cattle call.” Iowa does this a lot. The candidates will come, they’ll speak for 10-20 minutes, then they leave, and we have another one come up. They do the same thing over and over again over the course two very full days.

Have we seen anything like this before in New Hampshire?

We did. Democrats traditionally do this once when you get closer to the New Hampshire primary. But the idea that we’re going to have this two-day festival – it’s going to be a carnival kind of atmosphere – charge money for it, ask for the candidates to pay money to attend; there’s nothing that’s really been quite like that. There’s been a lot of concern, even among Republicans, that it’s changing the nature of the primary. All that said, if you are person who wants to learn more about a candidate, these candidates are going to be having events all over the state, and you don’t have to pay to attend  those events.

James Pindell

What’s going to be happening behind the scenes?

Because there’s going to be so many candidates, it’s going to be really hard for one particular candidate to have a breakthrough performance, though the media will be looking for that. If you’re the smart campaign, you’re trying to schedule maybe one or two other events in the state and really focus on private meetings with activists and big names that you want to try to woo so you can get them on the team. This is a time for a lot of quiet conversations as this primary is just beginning to get going.

How are they going to craft their message differently than they would in Iowa?

In Iowa, it’s much more about social conservatives. Fifty-seven percent of the last Republican caucus goers were self-identified as evangelical Christians. So appealing to them and talking about social issues is something that’s going to work really well in Iowa, but in New Hampshire, it doesn’t. This is the “Live Free or Die” state. The plurality of Republicans are actually pro-choice. There’s really not much of a conversation about gay marriage.

In fact, you even have a new TV ad out this week in New Hampshire from former New York Gov. George Pataki explicitly saying we should stop talking about social issues because it’s a “distraction,” getting away from foreign policy or the economy. So we’re going to see more conversation about debts, deficits, the economy, foreign policy, than you would in Iowa.

And probably a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton, I imagine.

One thing that’s going to definitely change is transitioning away from hitting Obama all the time and who can have the better applause line on Obama to now Hillary Clinton. The one person looming over this entire two-day weekend of Republicans in Nashua is Hillary Clinton. The candidates will be looking to make the best argument for why they’re the best person for Republicans to put against her and also who can deliver the best red meat lines that get a lot of applause.