N.H. Tea Partiers Hoping Another Candidate Jumps In Presidential Race

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People across the country — including on Boston Common — marked Tax Day with a series of Tea Party rallies.

But another rally of significant national importance happened Friday afternoon in front of the State House in Concord, N.H. Four potential presidential candidates tried out their speeches on the crowd of several hundred people.

WBUR's Fred Thys was there and joined All Things Considered's Sacha Pfeiffer to discuss the event.

Sacha Pfeiffer: The New Hampshire primary is always the first primary. In fact, four years ago, it was held in early January — pretty early. But this year there's been a sense that the campaigning is off to a late start. So was there a sense out there that the campaign is finally under way?

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty addresses the Tea Party rally in Concord, N.H., on Friday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty addresses the Tea Party rally in Concord, N.H., on Friday. (Fred Thys/WBUR)

Fred Thys: Yes. This definitely felt like the beginning of the presidential campaign.

Which candidates addressed the crowd?

Four candidates spoke: former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer; Atlanta talk show host Herman Cain; former Sen. Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania; and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Pawlenty talked about how he's run his state. And he did it in the same way Mitt Romney did four years ago. Back then, Romney made fun of liberal Massachusetts. Pawlenty talked about how tough it was to cut spending in Minnesota.

Hey, look. Tell me about hard. I mean, in Minnesota, one of the more liberal states in the country, the state that elected U.S. Sen. Al Franken, we were able to move the needle. We cut spending. We cut taxes.

Let's talk for a bit about the candidates and also the potential candidates who weren't there, including Mitt Romney, who's the presumed front-runner. What do Tea Partiers think of Romney?

I was surprised. Romney is staying away from the Tea Party, perhaps because he doesn't think they like him, but I found several people who think highly of Romney.

And other big names who weren't there?

Grant Bossy, of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, was the master of ceremonies. He poked fun at some of the candidates who didn't show up, including a darling of the Tea Party, Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann. On her last trip to Concord, she thought that's where the American Revolution began.

We were hoping Michelle Bachmann could be here today. Unfortunately, she could not find the State House in Concord, Mass.

It wasn't only Bachmann; he also made fun of Donald Trump, a potential candidate who was not there.

And what was the general mood of the crowd? Are they excited about the candidates who've said they're running?

Several people at the rally said that they just are not all that excited about the current crop of candidates. They're hoping someone else will jump in. And the name that kept coming up is the first-term governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. Naomi Claggett, from Newport, N.H., was among those hoping he would get in the race.

My man is Chris Christie. It's because he's accomplishing something, and he has had the nerve to stand up and speak the truth to people, and it would be so refreshing to hear someone actually speak the truth.

But Christie has repeatedly said he's not interested in running this time around.

And I understand there was a texting contest going on at the rally so people could vote for their favorite speaker?

Yes, there was, kind of American Idol-style. Herman Cain won that contest hands-down. He took about 60 percent of the vote. His speech focused a lot on the words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, including the words from the Declaration of Independence that says all men "are endowed by their Creator with [certain] inalienable rights." The crowd loved that.

There was also a straw poll held under the statue of Daniel Webster in front of the State House, and Tim Pawlenty won that.

This program aired on April 15, 2011.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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