To Raise His Profile, Pataki Raises A Glass With Craft Beer Fans In New Hampshire

Jul 27, 2015

The first rule of campaigning: Go where the voters are. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Manchester’s Arms Park, the Granite State Brewers Association Summerfest has already drawn more than 1,200 people – and that's drawn one of the sixteen announced Republican presidential candidates, former New York Governor George Pataki.

"There are two major attractions," Pataki says as he arrives. "First, good local craft beer, and second, thousands of young people who aren't going to watch network TV but are going to be spending a Saturday afternoon sampling local beer. It's a great way to meet with them and talk with them."

Before he gets to the first tent, Pataki is signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for selfies. Among those he meets is Benjamin Horton, a PhD student at the University of New Hampshire. Horton hasn’t decided who he’s going to support, but he’s pleasantly surprised Pataki is here.

“We are voters," Horton says. "I think that's really important that he realizes that the younger crowd is out here to vote. And it's really nice to see that the governor can relate to people who are young, can talk about fishing and beer and nice things that we're interested in.”

Pataki is one of several Republicans, including Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. who have shown interest in New Hampshire’s growing craft beer scene. Political science professor Dante Scala of the University of New Hampshire says it’s likely part of this year’s effort to court younger voters.

"Certainly these days you would reach out to young people through local – whether it's local produce [or] local beer,"  Scala says. "Of course, beer in general has never been incompatible with young people."

Nor has beer been incompatible with more middle-aged people – many of them shake hands with the candidate at Summerfest too. And while it’s unlikely that craft beer drinkers vote one way, Scala says it does make sense for Pataki to come to an event like this and try to reach younger voters, who tend to be more moderate on social issues than the country as a whole.

"George Pataki is definitely very, very moderate on social issues," Scala says. "Same sex marriage, for example. So if there’s a path for him to a new type of Republican, perhaps that will be the way he does it. He's certainly trying to appeal to people who are fiscally conservative but a kind of libertarian bent on social issues."

There are at least a few of these voters in attendance at the beer festival. Emily Conant of Manchester says she doesn’t have many Republicans under consideration this year, but having met Pataki, she’s willing to give his campaign a look.

“I’m an independent right now," Conant says. "I'm more socially liberal but economically Republican, someone who has a realistic view of things for Republican candidates. So he’s definitely on my radar.”

Getting on voters’ radar has been a challenge for Pataki's campaign. Despite spending a great deal of time in New Hampshire, he trails most of the Republican field in name recognition and fundraising. At Summerfest, he spends a lot of time introducing himself. And amid the hubbub of the festival, Pataki is sometimes overshadowed by distractions and noise. As he outlines his positions to one voter, his voice is drowned out by a passing troupe of bagpipers.

But Pataki says he’s anything but disappointed that he got to spend some time with the craft beer crowd.

"Well it’s not a hardship for me," he says. "I felt very much at home. When you interact with a crowd like this, you learn, you meet people and plus you have a good time.”

"And a beer!" adds a nearby fest-goer.