NASHUA, N.H. Newt Gingrich is making his first trip of the year to this politically crucial state as the Georgia Republican gauges whether there’s enough of a calling for him to run for president.
The former House speaker is scheduled to start today at a St. Patrick’s Day charity breakfast in Nashua, an event where those at the podium are judged more by the quality of their jokes than their political policies.
The breakfast has been a must-attend event in the past, with featured speakers including Pat Buchanan and Mitt Romney.
Later in the day, Gingrich is attending a luncheon at the Boys and Girls Club in Salem, N.H., before finishing his mini-tour with a dinner in Manchester.
Gingrich announced earlier this month he was starting an exploratory phase in his presidential run, and this marks his first trip to New Hampshire since that announcement.
It could prove to be a vital trip for Gingrich’s decision in running for president, for the role New Hampshire would play in his campaign, and for the GOP elite here who are still looking for a candidate who can effectively challenge President Obama.
“Most of us have fond memories of him from 94,” said Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a Concord-based conservative think tank. “The question for him is, can he transfer that sort of celebrity. He’s a great talking head on television or giving a speech, which is a slightly different skill set than being a candidate for president.”
Gingrich’s trip comes amid heightened activity in the Granite State as likely presidential candidates begin to test run their messages. Stumping in the state last week were former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, US Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and former US Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is speaking tomorrow night at a dinner in Manchester.
Romney, who addressed state GOP activists earlier this month, is far and away the frontrunner in New Hampshire : and the state is vital to his hopes in becoming the Republican nominee.
Forty percent of likely GOP primary voters said they would vote for the former Massachusetts governor, according to a poll conducted last month by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. The only other candidate in double figures was Giuliani, with 10 percent. Only 6 percent said they would vote for Gingrich.
One hurdle for Gingrich: in the poll, 40 percent said they had an unfavorable view of him, a figure that was worse than every candidate except Sarah Palin (50 percent unfavorable) and Donald Trump (64 percent)
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.