How times change.
In February 1992, after President George H.W. Bush beat Pat Buchanan by a less-than-expected margin in the New Hampshire presidential primary, the Texas agriculture commissioner had some unflattering things to say about the Granite State’s nominating process.
Speaking to the Houston Rotary Club, the commissioner voiced his support for the Texan president. “I haven’t figured out New Hampshire yet,’’ he said, according to a video of his remarks posted online by the Democratic-backed group American Bridge. “New Hampshire is so small up there, there were 55,000 people [who] voted in New Hampshire in one side of this thing – matter of fact, whoever that guy was who was running against the president got 55,000 votes. But Denton County [Texas] has got more votes than that that will vote in the primary up there. So I haven’t figured out why that’s so important.’’
The commissioner was Rick Perry – the now-Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate who is planning to hire one of the largest campaign staffs in the New Hampshire Republican primary.
Paul Young, a New Hampshire spokesman for Perry, said Perry clearly values the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation nominating process. “He was in New Hampshire for five days during the first couple of weeks of his national campaign,’’ Young said. “That tells you something about the priority that New Hampshire is for him. He clearly takes it seriously, knows he’s got to do grassroots campaigning here that voters expect and that makes people better candidates and better prepared to become president.’’
Perry, who has rearranged his schedule due to wildfires in Texas, will be in Boston tomorrow but has not yet confirmed his next visit to New Hampshire, Young said. But Perry visited New Hampshire the day he formally announced his candidacy for president on August 13, and has made two additional trips since then. He is scheduled to keynote at a dinner in New Hampshire at the end of October.
The Perry campaign has opened an office in Manchester and hired seven staff members. Another three staff members are expected to be hired within the next week. And, Young said, by the time the primary rolls around, Perry plans to hire around 20 staff members in New Hampshire, which would make it one of the largest campaign staffs of this election cycle. Dave Carney, one of Perry’s top national advisers, is from New Hampshire.
Perry’s remarks in 1992 came after Bush won the New Hampshire primary with 58 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Buchanan, a conservative commentator. The results showed surprising strength for a challenger to a sitting president and galvanized Buchanan supporters.
According to a copy of Perry’s talking points from the 1992 appearance, which were provided to the Globe by American Bridge, Perry tried to minimize the importance of the New Hampshire primary by illustrating the small number of votes that Buchanan actually got. He noted that some of Texas’ smaller counties gave Bush more votes in 1988 than Buchanan got statewide in New Hampshire. He also pointed out that Buchanan spent more time in New Hampshire than the president; and that Bush did better in the 1992 New Hampshire primary than he did in 1988.
Now it is Perry who is fighting for those New Hampshire votes .