Paul Steinhauser: With everyone else at CPAC, Gilmore visits NH
CONCORD - Call it counter-programming.
While just about every other potential Republican presidential candidate at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside the nation's capital, Jim Gilmore had New Hampshire to himself.
The former Virginia governor spent Thursday and Friday in the first-in-the-nation primary state, holding private meetings with elected officials and various activists in Merrimack and Grafton counties, and talking with college Republicans at two different events.
"I'm not going to hear anything new down at CPAC inside the Beltway. The best thing for me to do is to be here in New Hampshire where the decisions get made about the future of the nation and that's why I'm in New Hampshire instead of down in Washington," Gilmore said in an interview Friday with NH1.
During his two-day visit, Gilmore also met with officials at the state GOP headquarters in Concord, toured the Henniker Brewing Company and dined with students at New England College, and held a roundtable with Dartmouth College students.
This was Gilmore's second trip to the Granite State in a month. During that late January swing he visited Riley's Gun Shop in Hooksett and talked to veterans at the John H. Hargreaves Memorial VFW Post 10722 in Pelham. Gilmore's coming back to New Hampshire in two weeks, when he headlines a Strafford County Republican potluck dinner at the McConnell Center cafeteria in Dover.
Gilmore said he doesn't have a set timetable when it comes to deciding on a bid for the GOP presidential nomination.
"I'm considering it all. But I think the key thing is at this point is to get the right ideas out and get the reaction to the people of New Hampshire before I move to any type of decision process in the future. We need to find out how the people of New Hampshire feel about these issues and we're learning that a great deal. Just yesterday I talked to some regular folks out there again, as I'm doing on this whole tour. ‘What's on your mind. What concerns you?' And the answer's always the same. Its ISIS and jobs and growth and opportunity," he said.
A former Army intelligence officer who was stationed in Germany during the Cold War, Gilmore served as Virginia governor from 1998 to 2002. Gilmore came close to running for the White House in the 2008 cycle. He launched a presidential exploratory committee in December 2006, but he called it quits in the summer of 2007, citing fundraising difficulties. (He also lost the 2008 Senate election in Virginia by double digits to another former governor, Democrat Mark Warner.)
If he does launch a presidential campaign this time around, Gilmore would once again be considered a very longshot. But he says he can be competitive in a field that would include candidates with much higher name recognition and much larger campaign war chests.
"I think once it's known what I stand for and what I care about, then the donor community, I think, comes to me. And besides, I have a long history of raising money. I raised a record amount of money, $10 million, just running for governor of Virginia. Raised money when I was chairman of the national committee. I've raised money for other races all through the years," Gilmore said.
"I think it will be possible to raise the money to be competitive if I decide to go forward."