Presidential politics starts picking up a head of steam

Historically, the New Hampshire presidential primary campaign did not start until the fall before the primary was held, which usually was the second week in March. Of course, in recent four-year cycles, this has changed.
Therefore, 2011 has been an anomaly with no formally announced presidential candidates until April. President Obama surprised no one when he announced his intention to seek a second term and Vice President Joe Biden visited the University of New Hampshire and Portsmouth to give a rather low-key kickoff to the effort.It is doubtful President Obama will have any competition in the New Hampshire primary or any other Democratic contest, notwithstanding the feeling of those to his left who voice dissatisfaction with his war and domestic policies. With an expected billion-dollar war chest, mounting an effort against Obama seems fruitless.On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced the formation of an exploratory committee, which was tantamount to announcing for president. Romney recorded his announcement speech at the football stadium in Durham on the UNH campus, hardly a random choice and one indicating the importance of New Hampshire to his prospects.Handsome, intelligent, wealthy, Mormon and experienced, Romney would seem a sure front-runner in normal times. However, these are not normal times for Romney or anyone else in the Republican party.There have been rumblings from totally unqualified and nontraditional candidates. While Sarah Palin has faded as a potential candidate and has made no moves other than to flirt with the idea, a freshman congresswoman from Michigan, Michele Bachmann, former television commentator and tea party activist, has been making the rounds and sounding like she might seriously consider a run for office, notwithstanding the fact that she has no experience, no record and no credentials.Among serious contenders, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty have spent a lot of time in New Hampshire and other primary states. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour also is making the rounds and visited New Hampshire, albeit after postponing because of pressing state business, a notable problem for incumbent politicians seeking the presidency.One of the most interesting, eloquent and intriguing candidates is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia. Gingrich, long out of office, continues to delight audiences with his cerebral approach to issues and his ability to speak extemporaneously for extended periods of time with knowledge and ability. Of course, Gingrich suffers from several problems in his search, namely his multiple marriages, his resignation as speaker and his many years out of public eye.

Let’s be seriousAnother bizarre twist, which probably is more showmanship than substance, is the talk about Donald Trump, real estate developer and television personality running for the Republican nomination. That is an unlikely scenario and any real thought that Trump will have the concentration or staying power to run, the willingness to mix it up with real people or to be taken seriously by them is unlikely.However, the fact that such conversation would be taken seriously should cause citizens to think about why it even would be discussed. The cost of political campaigns, the attractiveness of the position to the super-rich, the inability to publicly fund elections and the tendency forAmericans to hero-worship should give us pause. A rich television personality may be fun speculation and a good news spot, but let’s be serious about this business.Quite a splash was made by Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah, when he was announced as the commencement speaker on May 21, at Southern New Hampshire University. Huntsman, a Republican, joined the Obama administration in a show of bipartisanship that is somewhat rare. Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon and is wealthy. By all accounts, he was a good governor of Utah, is charismatic, and eloquent. Sadly, speculation on his candidacy was criticized by some, because he had the temerity to cooperate with the other party and make American government bipartisan.Those wishing to see politics up close should get involved with a campaign, meet the candidates, listen to them in person and enjoy the unique opportunities New Hampshire affords as the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.