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Jul 16, 2015 12:18 AM

Steinhauser: Graham tells NH1 News natl. polling 'is no substitute for the NH voter'

NH1 Political Director - NH1.com

MANCHESTER – Lindsey Graham says “New Hampshire is going to become my second home.”

The senator from South Carolina and Republican presidential candidate spoke one-on-one with NH1 News moments before holding an event at Manchester city hall to highlight the importance of the early voting states in the primary and caucus calendar.

The event kicked off a last minute two-day swing for Graham in the Granite State. It’s his third trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state this month, with another visit planned for next week.

“From a political point of view it is a must do for Lindsey Graham,” the senator told NH1 News.

Asked why New Hampshire seems like a better fit for him that Iowa, which holds the first caucus, Graham instantly ticked off independents, who make up approximately 40% of the electorate.

But Graham added that his good friend and colleague Sen. John McCain of Arizona “won here twice and it proves to me that there’s a market for a guy like Lindsey Graham, who’s a problem solving conservative who understands that you have to work with Democrats at times. But I really think the commander in chief issue means a lot to people in New Hampshire and Iowa, but particularly here.”

Graham fights for primary

At his event, Graham, standing in front of Mayor Ted Gatsas, state Sen. Dave Boutin, Rep. Pam Tucker, former executive counselors Peter Spaulding and Ray Wieczorek, former NHGOP chairmen Fergus Cullen and John Stabile, and others, Graham touted the important role the early voting states play in winnowing the field of presidential contenders.

“I would argue that the New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina primaries have never been in more jeopardy than they are today,” Graham warned.

Only 10 candidates will make the stage at the first GOP presidential nomination debate, which Fox News is hosting August 6 in Cleveland (host city for next year’s Republican convention). With 15 candidates already declared and at least two more GOP White House hopefuls all but certain to announce, a bunch of contenders won’t make the cut. Fox News is using an average of national polling to determine who makes the stage, rather than surveys from the early voting states.

If the debate were held today, Graham, who’s considered a long shot for the nomination, wouldn’t make the cut due to his very low standing in national polling.

Last month some of the top Republicans in New Hampshire sent an open letter to Fox News and the Republican National Committee that strongly criticized the move to limit the first debate to ten candidates. Leading Republicans in both Iowa and South Carolina followed suit.

Some leading politicians and activists in the three states see what Fox is doing as a real threat to the first-in-the-nation primary status, by winnowing the field of candidates before New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina get to do so.

Graham told NH1 New that limiting the debate to 10 candidates and using national polling as the criteria was “an incredibly bad idea.”

“National polling is celebrity and name ID. New Hampshire is about character and competence. I think we’re going to exclude some good people based on inaccurate polling. I think we’re about to nationalize the race and undercut the New Hampshire primary. That’s the last antidote to big money,” Graham said.

Asked if his national poll numbers increased and he made the cut to go to the debate in Cleveland, Graham said “I won’t feel any different about the process. I really won’t. I like coming to New Hampshire. You can ask me why I think the way I do about the deal. I’ve been in groups of 40, 50, 10, sometimes a hundred. But this whole process is an antidote and allows you to determine if I’m ready or everybody else is ready from a competency point of view. You also get to judge our character a bit. So the Cleveland process, the national pollster, is no substitute for the New Hampshire voter.”

Union Leader announces forum

Graham’s event came hours after the New Hampshire Union Leader announced that it would hold a Republican presidential candidates forum on the evening of Monday August 3, three days before the Fox News debate in Cleveland.

The “Voters First Forum” which is being co-sponsored by newspapers in Iowa and South Carolina, will be held at 7pm at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College. It will be moderated by Jack Heath, host of the popular “New Hampshire Today” morning talk radio program. The form will be seen nationally on CSPAN and will be broadcast in the Granite State on NH1 News on WBIN-TV.

Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid told NH1 News the move by Fox News to hold a debate “based on national polls in August to just ten candidates is just crazy when you have so many qualified people, and our format and our forum on that Monday night gives a chance, I think, for a much broader field to be up there and tell the audience now in New Hampshire and South Carolina and Iowa what they’re all about.”

“The idea that Fox was going to winnow the field down before the primary voters got a chance to vote six or seven months from now rubbed me the wrong way, so that’s why we’re doing ours and fortunately the candidates are agreeing to it,” McQuaid added.

The forum does not break the rules laid out by the Republican National Committee, which is trying to impose order this cycle in what’s been a very disorderly debate process the past couple of election cycles.

“I’m actually excited to hear that the Union Leader is doing this. I hope this is the first of many of these kinds of events in the early primary and caucus states,” said Steve Duprey, one of New Hampshire’s two committee members on the RNC.

“We never intended that the debates be the exclusive way for people to get to know candidates. In fact, I think there’s a strong argument that these forums will fulfill a more useful role than a ten candidate on the stage format where the candidates are selected by national polls,” added Duprey, chairman of the RNC’s committee on debates.


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