Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stateless: New Hampshire Lets Gary Johnson Slip Away

Not all roads lead to victory in New Hampshire.

Most candidates at this stage in the campaign understand that their touted "paths to the nomination" have no chance of succeeding, but they carry on nonetheless, continuing to hawk the chances of their increasingly futile underdog efforts.

It is in this bizzare self-applauding environment that today's announcement by New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson that he is effectively ending his campaign in New Hampshire rings with a rare and affecting humility.


In a week dominated by damning new indiscretions levied against Herman Cain and the increasingly disingenuous nature of the Romney campaign's anti-Obama advertising, the humanity Governor Johnson displayed in confronting his inability to gain traction despite his extraordinary campaign efforts in New Hampshire should cause us to step back and wonder how exactly this man got away.

With a strong gubernatorial record of balancing the budget through his aggressive vetoing of legislation that would raise government expenditures, as well as his progressive stance on drug policy and other popular libertarian issues, it is easy to see why Johnson imaged New Hampshire would be a great place to peddle his message.

So too, the efforts of Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer to confront the growing and increasingly harmful influence of corporate money in deciding which candidates are presented to national television audiences have ironically resulted in his exclusion from all debates. Although Gary Johnson has made two such appearances on the debate stage, the two share backgrounds as successful, reform-minded governors who remained popular at the end of their terms, but have been kept in the wings and off the screen.

To maintain that a figure Herman Cain (who, remember, languished on the debate stage without attracting attention for months) has all-along deserved such a national spotlight while Johnson and Roemer remain sheltered from the public eye is a troubling admission that should cause to acknowledge that the electoral process as it stands now has been seriously undermined.


"We rode bikes 500 miles across the state, we scheduled town halls – for whatever reason, nobody's really coming out to hear what it is I have to say."  — Gary Johnson

Earlier this Fall I showed up to photograph a Gary Johnson town hall meeting in a cozy, finely-decorated elementary school music room. In a fortuitous misunderstanding emblematic of his campaign's ineffective communication with voters, I asked a staffer when to expect the Governor's motorcycle pack to arrive at the venue. before being corrected that he was indeed pedaling a bike.

A few minutes after the event's scheduled start time, I loitered around in the parking lot for Mr. Johnson to arrive. A minivan pulled into the dark parking lot and watched as Johnson, a member of his staff, and another local supporter or politician who I assume intended to introduce the Governor to the crowd walked towards me. I addressed him with a commonplace "Good evening, Governor" as he walked by.

A few feet from the door to the music room, Johnson's acquaintance patted him on the back, wished him the best of luck, and peeled off to let the Governor greet the crowd on his own.

Besides three members of his staff, there were no voters there to greet him.

With Manchester glowing in the eighty degree air, maybe the weather really was too beautiful for anyone to leave home. Maybe Johnson's message really is out of line with New Hampshire voters.
Whatever the explanation, the whole thing saddened me unexpectedly, and left me confused as to what exactly was the matter with this campaign.

With Gary Johnson effectively pulling out of New Hampshire, the conclusion is clear: if "America has a date with Liberty"—as Johnson's banner outside the event artfully read—they have soundly stood her up. In a rare unity of the 1st and 99th percent, the blame is ours collectively.

Jon Huntsman – Merrimack Town Hall

View my full gallery from the event here.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Newt Gingrich – St. Anselm's College

 "If you've been here 25 years and you've got three kids and two grandkids, you've been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don't think we're going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out."
Say what you want about Newt Gingrich's mistakenly "compassionate" statement that American communities ought not deport established and contributing families of illegal immigrants spoiling his chances of winning over hard-line anti-immigration conservatives, but Gingrich's political calculation is a meaningful one, and a move that's made me realize how strong of a candidate he truly is.


Instead of "endorsing amnesty"—as Gingrich's wacky neighbor on last night's debate stage, Michele Bachmann, attempted to portray his remarks—Gingrich has powerfully shifted the political discourse of the 2012 GOP campaign more than the endless quarrel between Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and other fence-loving candidates has to this date. Gingrich's statements get at the heart of the practicality (or lack of) behind any candidate's promise to deport all immigrants who've broken the law by entering the country illegally; he both brushes aside impractically dogmatic candidates like Michele Bachmann, but also presents a serious challenge to his competitors who merely enjoy discussing the "magnets" of immigrants and ignore the societal benefits of seriously addressing immigration reform.

Romney has already begun to follow Gingrich's lead here, endorsing the speaker's idea that graduates from American universities in science and engineering receive a green card along with diploma, but Gingirch can rightly claim that he's the one who generated the idea and turned the national conversation onto this topic.


Gingrich's electoral strength rests in his willingness to lay bare challenging political realities and the underlying tendencies of our society while the other front-runners make grand and impractical political promises and gestures. To be clear, Gingrich does have a fair share of these gestures too, but his rhetoric speaks to the nit and grit that will categorize the job of the next president and an awareness of how the executive's energy should be meaningfully spent.

Watch out, Mitt.

View my complete gallery from the event here.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jon Huntsman – Norton's Classic Cafe

100, 101, 102...

Jon Huntsman simply isn't slowing down, and he continues to conduct event after event across New Hampshire after reaching the hundredth event milestone last week.

To boot, supporters aren't just trickling in to half-empty venues, they're filling town halls large and small. Monday evening's standing-room-only event at Norton's Classic Cafe in Nashua was no exception.

Check out my complete gallery from the event here.

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Ron Paul – Keene State University

Yesterday afternoon, Texas Congressman Ron Paul held a town hall meeting with students and supporters at Keene State University. It was my first time on campus, and I was very impressed with the facilities that I saw and the large crowd that turned out to hear Dr. Paul speak.


As for the event itself, the write ups from the "mainstream media" outlets (CNN, NBC) focused on a brief interruption by students who conducted another of the infamous "mic checks"—born of the Occupy Wall Street movement—that have been disrupting public events countrywide in recent weeks. But there was more to the event than that, and Paul surprised the young crowd on a number of occasions by rattling off facts that illustrated the size of the American government, diplomatic force, and overseas military presence in an attempt to put into perspective the necessity of his major overhauls of domestic and foreign policy policy.

All told, Paul's handling of young crowds, and his ability to guide his language towards examples and talking points that strike a chord with typically-disaffected college students, reveals a strength of his candidacy that's not properly acknowledged in polls.


The talk among fellow photographers returning from Iowa is that Paul's connections among influential communities may well buoy him on election day much more than conventional candidates such as Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, Romney, or Cain. Paul is, after all, tied for second place in New Hampshire with Newt Gingrich, and has maintained his organization and grown his support in the state over time, while other candidates have stumbled into New Hampshire fresh off the national stage and made strategic errors that have ultimately paralyzed them here.

In Iowa and New Hampshire, I look forward to the continuing excitement that will inevitably dominate Dr. Paul's campaign stops.

View my complete gallery from the event here.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Names Move to Romney

There's a reason to smile in Camp Romney, with two political heavyweights—Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Charles Bass—jumping on Romney Express in the past 48 hours. 

While Endorsements have been of minimal importance in the GOP campaign season so far, but in New Hampshire, they could add firepower to Romney's campaign at a time when his lead over the surging Newt Gingrich has weakened.


Mitt Romney – Nashua Rally & Diner Visit

Today Mitt Romney received the endorsement of New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte at Nashua's City Hall. Following the rally, Romney and Ayotte served sandwiches to supporters gathered at Jackie's Diner.

View my complete gallery here.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mitt Romney – Peterborough Town Hall

Peterborough is one my favorite towns in New Hampshire, and it's beautiful town hall building was a perfect match for the Romney campaign's meticulous set dressing. At least two pricey RED cameras and a large film crew were in the house to capture the sights and sounds, presumably for an upcoming Romney television campaign spot.

When it came to exactly what Romney said, read what Jo Ling Kent wrote on NBC's "First Read" blog.

View my full gallery from the event here.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Gary Johnson – Riverwoods Retirement Community

Governor Gary Johnson holds a town hall meeting at the Riverwoods Retirement Community in Exeter, NH on November 10, 2011.

View the complete gallery here.


Rick Santorum – New Boston Town Hall

View the complete gallery here.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Granite State Patriots "Constitutional Conversation"

Let me say first that I enjoy new formats at political events. After announcing plans to hold a typical presidential debate and repeatedly switching venues in the past weeks, the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC (wordy, huh?) finally held their "Constitutional Conversation" at a conference center in Hampton this past Thursday.

In attendance were Buddy Roemer, Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. Combined these men garner under 10% of New Hampshire GOP support in recent polls; remove Gingrich from the equation and that number couldn't be more than 3%. Two at a time, the candidates nestled into large green leather armchairs and asked each other questions.


Sure the lighting was awful (no surprise for an event designed to be broadcast on the radio) and the energized personalities of the New Hampshire didn't turn up (it would have been interesting to see the likes of Huntsman or Ron Paul try their hand at the crowd), but my takeaway from the event was how utterly unenergized New Hampshire Republicans are despite professing to be so angry at the President and determined to unseat him.

Asked by the moderator what was the single biggest failing of the Obama Administration, Newt Gingrich paused before dryly pronouncing: "Where do I begin? We could be here all night." The crowd worked itself up into a standing ovation, and it struck me: the 2012 Republicans think that the mere mention of Obama will send voters the country over into an ecstatic rush to the polls.


But a long general election will require a sustained energy as the Republican nominee goes head to head against Obama, articulating exactly why each of the President's policies really is the rebel-rousing assault on the average American the current crop of candidates seem to believe. I don't doubt that a candidate like Gingrich could perform well in this capacity, but a party that assumes rhetorical questions and the supposedly self-evident destructive nature of Obama's legislative accomplishments needs to come to terms with the fact that independent voters view such a style of campaigning to be amateurish and oppositional.

All the while, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer have been with sparse crowds while they energetically articulate exciting new visions of how the Republican Party ought to position itself in the decades ahead. Having spent a considerable amount of time with Democratic candidates the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd in 2007, I know what it's like for talented politicians to languish in relative obscurity, but there's no equivalent of a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton frontrunner espousing a complete and sustainable platform for the 2012 Republicans.


And so Newt Gingrich rises in the polls and his quips at debates become more and more a part of the Republican articulation of the 2012 election. At last night's CBS "Commander in Chief" Debate, Gingrich deflected a question concerning what he would do to fix health care once Obamacare had been repealed. "In thirty seconds?' he retorted, begging the audience to follow him in evaluating the supposed absurdity of such a question, maligning the media all the while for injecting a degree of practicality into the debate.

Mr. Gingrich, find an answer. You'll need to make it good and say it often if you think you've got the chops to get into the game. The longer Republicans dither around with candidates who assume they can hit a grand slam in the general election with so little effort, the more the intellectual upper hand becomes Obama's.

[View my complete gallery of photos from this event HERE]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Buddy Roemer – Hampstead Campaign Stop

Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer is running for President.

It wasn't clear that anyone at the Beantown Exchange coffee shop in Hampstead, NH knew that when he sat down with the shop's owner and a supporter at the front of the room and began an in depth discussion of topics as varied as Occupy Wall Street, Chinese labor practices, and the necessity of restructuring student loans.

Following the chat, Buddy worked the room, passing out business cards and answering a number of questions on progressive education and alternative energy with a couple whose daughter excitedly rolled around on a couch.


Anyone in New Hampshire should make a point to meet up with Governor Roemer in the coming weeks—he's rented an apartment in Manchester, frequently conducts public events, and would be more than happy for you to pull up a seat next to him and ask a question. You'll be glad you did.

View the complete gallery of the event here.


Jon Huntsman — Hudson Town Hall

Governor Jon Huntsman holds a Veterans Day town hall meeting at American Legion Post 48 in Hudson, New Hampshire.

View the complete gallery here.

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