POLITICS: PennAve

GOP presidential hopefuls flock to New Hampshire for Freedom Summit

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Politics,Republican Party,New Hampshire,2016 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg

A flock of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates will converge on New Hampshire this weekend for a number of public and private events.

The possible contenders will begin to lay political foundations in the first-in-the-nation primary state or expand their pre-existing networks.

The marquee event will be the Freedom Summit in Manchester, N.H., sponsored by the prominent conservative third-party groups Americans for Prosperity and Citizens United. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 candidate for president who is weighing another go, will speak, as will Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who Real Clear Politics reported is toying with the idea of a presidential bid.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who has received scant attention as a potential presidential candidate, is also slated to speak at the summit. More tellingly, however, Lee will also host a meet-and-greet benefiting the New Hampshire Republican Party on Saturday at the Pink Cadillac Diner in Rochester, N.H.

Making the most obvious overtures at potentially running for president will be Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky. Both will headline the Freedom Summit, and both also plan to headline multiple events on behalf of the state Republican Party.

On Saturday, Cruz will headline two public rallies, in Manchester and Nashua, N.H., marking a Republican Day of Action with state GOP activists, who will be testing a new grassroots technology.

Paul, for his part, will participate in two fundraisers for the New Hampshire Republican Party: one small-dollar event for fewer than 200 people in Dover, N.H., and an intimate reception at the home of a former New Hampshire GOP official, Ellen Christo, in Hampton Falls, N.H., for which tickets will run $250 apiece.

On Saturday, Paul will also headline an event on behalf of Citizens For A Strong New Hampshire, a pro-Republican nonprofit. Cruz will host a fundraising event for the organization at the end of this month.

“They’re making the best use of their time up here, touching different demographics and constituencies you would need to court should you want to run for president,” said Mike Biundo, a New Hampshire-based Republican operative who ran former Sen. Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign in the state.

Paul’s schedule in particular won’t leave much time for one-on-one meetings with influential party powerbrokers in New Hampshire, but such schmoozing is less necessary for him at this stage than for most other potential first-time presidential candidates.

Paul's father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, ran multiple presidential campaigns in New Hampshire and built a strong network in the state over those years. Rand Paul maintains close ties with the New Hampshire-based Republican operative Andy Demers, who worked on Ron Paul's prior New Hampshire presidential campaigns.

But it’s too early to be officially staffing up in New Hampshire, even for Paul. At this juncture, most presidential hopefuls will focus their efforts on helping the state party and third-party groups during this competitive midterm election cycle, in hopes that paying those dues will pay dividends later.

Biundo added, “Anybody who’s smart right now and thinking about 2016 is helping people focus on 2014.”

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