Today after a week of antibiotics and the pneumonia under control it was time to head up North to cover another NH event, the debate between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman
At St. Anselm College
The way to the college is NH route 101, it was a valley of signs for all kinds of candidates
When I got to St. Anselm the first thing I noticed was the near total lack of transmitter trucks:
There wasn’t a big gaggle of press at first, although Joe Klein show up and ask me for directions.
I ducked into the administration building before the debate, after all colleges advertise too:
By the time I came out a second truck showed up.
From there I went back to the hall where the debate was to take place. Nobody was allowed in before three and the front door was guarded by a young lady and her entourage:
I asked if they would like to comment but after a call to their superiors I was informed they were not allowed to talk Since they were not allowed I did what comes naturally and began interviewing other people for their thoughts. Alex, a Huntsman supporter was the first person I talked to.
After I talked to him I noticed that some people had entered the “free speech” zone, there were holding signs for Gingrich but were without question not supporters of the campaign.
There were very loud and when I talked to David, a Romney guy you could hear them in the background.
I then discovered an actual Newt Supporter who I interviewed next
At this point an actual Newt campaign person showed up, the women were very apologetic to her but she shook it off noting it was part of the political game.
I asked the real Newt person who they were with and discovered they were Ron Paul people. I was surprised as I’ve never known Paulians not to directly push their candidate, but I should have guessed by the remarks concerning war and Israel.
Shortly after some actual Newt people showed up holding signs
Including a very familiar face from my last NH trip
He declined to comment on his migration to Newt from Cain so I went inside. Both Campaigns had tables set up Huntsman
As I poked around the entrance way I found a 2008 Catholic voting guide
As Gingrich is a convert I asked for comment but got none, but I did interview a lady from an independent group:
And shortly afterward now that I knew who the people outside were I decided to interview them:
At this point the debate was about to start, I went inside to charge my laptop as I had no press pass or ticket, as I sat on the floor charging when author Terry Tibbets and his wife came in, (btw his book The Life and Loss of Don Hollender would make an excellent Christmas gift it’s available in paperback, hardcover and for the Kindle.) spotted me and said hello…They didn’t have ticket but as there were no shows they were able to get a pair. The moment I heard that I checked at the table and suddenly credentials or no, reservation or no I was in.
It was pretty packed. When the candidates entered they were received warmly, sat together and the round table began
Topics were handled in detail, 5 min per statement, and both sides got a rebuttal. You can likely find the entire debate online in better quality so here is a glimpse of a question on Iran.
Both candidates came across as well-informed, intelligent and conservative, I’d have to give Newt the slight edge but Huntsman certainly showed he belonged on that stage.
Huntsman talked about our relationship with Afghanistan as “Transactional” Gingrich noted the odd mix of 3rd and 1st world in the area where you can leave a Four seasons and a block away there is squalor, he said the Obama administration doesn’t look at reality, on China he mentioned “We can’t count on China to match us in stupidity”, and Huntsman finished saying the US was still an example and light for the world.
I talked to many people in the crowd. All agreed they like this format, all agreed both should do more of these. I think that Newt helped himself but helped Huntsman more. Although only one person talked to me on camera this reaction was typical:
Romney was the biggest casualty, if Huntsman is considered a viable alternative to Mitt that’s where his votes would come from. I think it was a huge mistake for him to run by hitting conservatives and tea party guys early, but that’s what got him the MSM positives early.
Whoever told him that was a good way to play, sold him a bill of goods.
When the debate was done, there was a Huntsman event that I attended, but that’s another post….