Political news from New Hampshire Public Radio, from the State House to the First in the Nation Primary.

If GOP front-runner Mitt Romney cannot quickly persuade his rivals and voters that he is the inevitable nominee and that further resistance is futile, he may be in for an expensive and time-consuming slog.

Unlike GOP presidential primary seasons of the past, the one that begins in Iowa Tuesday was actually designed to slow down the emergence of a winner by stretching out the calendar and altering the delegate allocation rules.

After concentrating on Iowa more than any other Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum is gaining on front-runners Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, a new Des Moines Register poll shows. Santorum is hoping to consolidate Iowa's Christian conservative vote — the strategy that won the state for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee four years ago.

Jeanne Zyzda did not expect more than 100 people in her Sioux City coffee shop, the Daily Grind. Not all at once, and not on a holiday.

Most of the Republican presidential candidates are stumping in Iowa on this last Sunday before the state's caucuses.

The only major contenders not in the state are Rep. Ron Paul, who is spending New Year's Day at home in Texas but returning to Iowa for several events Monday, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who remains ensconced in New Hampshire, where the scene shifts after Tuesday night.

A little over three hours outside Des Moines, Iowa, in the northwest corner of the state, is the city of Le Mars. A sign proclaims this is the Ice Cream Capital of the World.

Saturday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke in Le Mars at the Family Table restaurant. His speech, like all Romney campaign speeches, was about President Obama.

"This is an election to decide whether we're going to go further and further down the path of becoming more and more similar to a European welfare state, or whether instead we're going to remain an exceptional nation," he said.

Because the news media abhor the absence of drama as much as nature supposedly detests vacuums, Rick Santorum's rise in recent polls of likely Iowa Republican presidential primary caucus voters definitely scratches a journalistic itch.

Santorum's ascent to the top three in Iowa polls, along with Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, has spiced up the race, especially after the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania spent so many months stuck in the caboose of GOP candidates.

Congress broke a record this year, but hitting the lowest approval rating of all time isn’t what the region’s lawmakers had hoped to accomplish.

Correspondent Matt Laslo talked with the New Hampshire congressional delegation and has a look back at this year’s wild ride in Washington.

Republicans took over the lower chamber at the start of the year…hoping to drastically slash the federal debt. But it now sits at more than $15 trillion dollars.

Every four years, a small subset of political junkies starts salivating over the prospect that no one candidate will garner enough delegates to win his or her party's nomination for the presidency. That would lead to the junkie's greatest fantasy: a brokered convention.

Part of a series

With the 2012 presidential election on the horizon, NPR's Debbie Elliott heads to Camden, S.C., to hear from the close-knit Gaither-James family. Like other African-Americans — considered the political base for President Obama — they're concerned about the economy and today's political climate.

Taste Test at the GOP Primary Buffet

Dec 23, 2011
Jon Greenberg, NHPR

In the last presidential primary, Democrat candidate Bill Richardson ran ads that cast running for president as nothing more glamorous than showing up for a job interview -- with citizens doing the vetting.

A voter’s task is at least that complicated and at a certain point, the decision comes down to a gut level preference.   NHPR’s Jon Greenberg has been talking with scores of voters to see how they add things up.  His most recent trip took him to a manufacturing plant in Milford.

Ron Paul Has Support In Iowa, But Old Issues Linger

Dec 23, 2011

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is anything but an establishment GOP candidate. Yet, he is at the top of the polls in Iowa, largely because his message appeals to more than just the typical Republican caucus-goer. That was made clear when he met John McCarthy and Michelle Godez-Schilling, both of whom attended a campaign stop in Dubuque, Iowa.

"I would like to say I'm an independent, and for the first time in my life I'm affiliated with one of the two major parties because of you," McCarthy told Paul.

You may not have heard of Buddy Roemer. But he's running for president. And despite an impressive resume and gift for turning a phrase, Roemer barely registers in the polls. He's conducting his quixotic run for office without accepting campaign contributions that exceed $100.

Photo by: blackburnlabour.org

The non-profit organization Americans Elect is making waves by petitioning for a national, online nominating process that would offer an alternative to the state-by-state primary nominating process. This isn’t the first – nor the only conversation about the relevance of holding early contests in small states, but brings to light a conundrum for lesser known and lesser funded candidates.

Americans Elect is an organization aiming to hold a national on-line nomination for a third-party ticket in the 2012 presidential race. The group is making headlines not just because of what they aim to do, but also because of conspiracy theories about why the group exists and who is funding it.

Chief Operating Officer Elliot Ackerman says American’s Elect isn’t a political party.

Getting Inside the Heads of Undecided Voters

Dec 20, 2011
Jon Greenberg, NHPR

With the New Hampshire primary only about three weeks away,  as many as two-thirds of GOP voters are keeping their options open.  Their influence on the outcome is large but you are unlikely to meet them at a town meeting or a rally.   We  went looking for them in a place where the emphasis is on the body, rather than the body politic.

“I’m Jon Greenberg NHPR.  Are either of you thinking of participating in the Republican primary

Maybe, but I’m going to do cardio.”

(Photo by Brian J Matis via Flickr Creative Commons)

Over the weekend, the Senate overwhelmingly approved extending the payroll tax cut for two months...but before earners could count their thousand-dollar chickens, house speaker Boehner announced the extension would be DOA at the House, sparking a fierce public debate on a week better known for empty halls on Capitol Hill. But with all the kerfluffle over the payroll tax, there are a number of smaller, targeted tax cuts set to expire this year you probably haven't heard about.

(Photo by Joseph A. Ferris via Flickr Creative Commons)

South Korean troops are on high alert today after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong iI. Kim’s chosen successor and third son, Kim Jong Un, now becomes the figurehead of an exalted dynasty that is revered by the citizens, despite a dismal quality of life inside of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea or D.P.N.K.

In the final leg of the campaign in Iowa, the Republican presidential candidates are talking about judges. No one has made them a bigger issue than Newt Gingrich.

Overhauling the judiciary has become one of his key proposals on the stump.

Conservatives have used "activist judges" as a battle cry for many election cycles now. But in Iowa, the issue has special resonance since the judiciary became a potent political issue two years ago.

Born in the spring of 1958, former Sen. Rick Santorum — the son of a psychologist and a nurse — was the second of three children in a Catholic family. The Pennsylvania Republican spent most of his childhood in the Pittsburgh suburbs.

Raj Patel, Sherry Turkle, Bruce Levine, Tyler Cowen and Eliza Griswold...oh, my! We smack a big red bow on our 11 for '11 series of conversations with big thinkers, analyze their predictive powers, and talk about their spheres of influence.  How  

We also look at some folks who, in retrospect, should have made the list, like leading edge tweeter Evan Hill, and music critic and retro-downer Simon Reynolds

Romney Seeks Gingrich's Tea Party Lead In S.C.

Dec 18, 2011

It was warm and beautiful in the seaside resort of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Saturday, where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney held his final town hall meeting of the weekend. As he stood surrounded by supporters wearing campaign T-shirts, Romney's mood seemed as sunny as the 65-degree weather outside.

Romney had a lot to be happy about. South Carolina's Tea Party-backed Gov. Nikki Haley had not only endorsed him, she regaled him with glowing tributes at every campaign stop in the multi-city tour.

Lining Up With The Tea Party

The U.S. Senate wrapped up a tumultuous year of divided government with votes that keep the federal government funded through September and extend expiring unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut another two months.

In a rare Saturday year-end session, the Senate's action averted a shutdown but was not the last word on the payroll tax cut extension.

Mitt Romney returned to form in the final Republican presidential debate before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Romney, who had perhaps his shakiest debate performance in Des Moines over the weekend, appeared to regain his composure in Thursday night's debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

He managed to once again convey the sense that he was the one GOP candidate of the seven remaining who could credibly stand on the same stage with President Obama next fall, the most electable of the candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination.

An Eye on Iowa

Dec 15, 2011

The first-in-the-nation caucus state has been overflowing with Republican Presidential candidates, all hoping to be the number one choice of caucus-goers in early January.  We’ll find out what they’re saying and how they’re playing in the Hawkeye State and how that compares to the campaign this year in New Hampshire. 


Dennis Delay / New Hampshire Center For Public Policy Studies

Yesterday, StateImpact liveblogged the Joint Economic Session.  Members of the House and Senate Finance and Ways and Means Committees gathered for hours to hear economists offer projections on where the global, national, and state economies are headed in 2012.

Politicians and journalists always run a risk when they judge a voter strictly on on appearances.

There was a reminder of that Monday when Mitt Romney was forced to defend his opposition to gay marriage during a restaurant encounter with a grizzled Vietnam veteran who happened to be gay.

As it turned out the vet, Bob Garon, also was sitting at a restaurant booth with his husband when the unsuspecting Romney, campaigning at the Manchester restaurant, asked if he could sit down with them.


Mitt Romney didn’t mention Newt Gingrich by name during a town hall meeting at a Hudson VFW hall. But he told reporters that he won’t back away from the tough talk of his campaign surrogates, including former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, who’s said that Gingrich is unstable.

“I am not going to distance myself in any way because those are their experiences, characterizations they’ve made. But I’d also note, however, that the most harsh criticisms of the speaker have come ... from those who haven’t endorsed me.”

(Photo by David Murray of <a href="http://books.simonandschuster.com/Jack-Kennedy/Chris-Matthews/9781451635089" target="_blank">Clear Eye Photo</a>)

Chris Matthews is best known for his opinionated and combative style on his MSNBC program, "Hardball with Chris Matthews." What's lesser known is that he's a former print journalist, was a long-time aide to Tip O'Neill, and that he grew up in an Irish Catholic family...of Republicans. All this played no small part in sewing the seeds of his admiration for a man he'd later write two books about, John F. Kennedy. 

New Hampshire’s senators split their votes over the president’s nominee to head the nation’s new bureau to protect consumers from financial fraud. 

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray didn’t stand a chance and it’s not because he’s controversial. Republicans just don’t like the consumer bureau the president asked him to head. The new bureau is housed in the Federal Reserve and paid for with its funds. Without the need to ask for money annually Republicans, such as New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, say lawmakers lack essential oversight powers. 

Josh Rogers

Tea Party voters were expected to play a key role in the 2012 republican presidential primary. But with movement hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry low in the polls, and Herman Cain now out of the race, the Tea Party vote remains very much in play.  Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul may stand most to gain. New NHPR’s Josh Rogers reports.

 Attend any NH campaign event with a Tea Party flavor and you will come across more than a few voters like Mark Grenier.

“Mitt Romney? I’d spit on his shoes. The man’s flip-flops, health care, you can’t trust him.”

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is starting to criticize Newt Gingrich -- and turning to former Governor John Sununu to lead the attacks. NHPR’s Josh Rogers reports.

Governor Sununu is practiced at delivering political put-downs. His flashed a sharp-tongue at the state house and relished the role of enforcer as President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff. In a Romney campaign call with reporters, Sununu took aim at Newt Gingrich’s comment, since recanted, that Paul Ryan’s budget plan amounted to “right-wing social engineering.”