3:00pm

Mon July 4, 2011
Politics

GOP Candidates Stump On The Fourth Of July

Originally published on Wed August 24, 2011 11:51 am

Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

On this Independence Day, most of the nation gets to take the day off work, but not the Republican presidential candidates. Today, they were hard at work, marching in parades, shaking hands at barbeques and showing off the red, white and blue.

They stuck mostly to the states with the earliest voting contests - Iowa and New Hampshire - as NPR's Robert Smith reports.

ROBERT SMITH: It's easy to nab a presidential candidate on the Fourth of July. You just have to set out the right bait: pick a small town in a primary state like New Hampshire, something picturesque, like Andover. That put voters like Bernie Garnel(ph) out on the village green and add all the trappings.

Ms. BERNIE GARNEL: There's the parade. There's all these vendors, these antiques going on. They've got a softball game later on. The hamburgers over there are just out of this world. A lot of food, a lot of baked goods. It's just great.

Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Republican Presidential Candidate): Thanks for being here today. How are you?

Ms. GARNEL: Great. How are you?

Mr. ROMNEY: I am terrific. Thanks.

Ms. GARNEL: That's good.

SMITH: All that was catnip to Republican Mitt Romney who is in Andover, handing out lemonade and compliments.

Mr. ROMNEY: Look at this. There's Miss USA.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROMNEY: Hi, how are you?

SMITH: Kids, dogs, pie-eating contests, if you can't find a good patriotic photo-op on the Fourth of July, you should not be running for president. And Romney seems to know the main rule of campaigning on Independence Day: keep it light on the politics, heavy on the patriotism.

Mr. ROMNEY: We are a great land that's been led by great heroes, and I know we face some real challenges, but there's no people on Earth more patriotic, more in love with their country than the people of the United States of America. And we will do what it takes to get America right again.

(Soundbite of applause)

SMITH: But, of course, the problem with campaigning on the Fourth is that you never have the place to yourself. Earlier this morning, Romney went to Amherst, New Hampshire, to march in their parade. And who else showed up but former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. Bit of an awkward situation because the two candidates are so similar: both are Mormon, both men are former governors and businessmen, and both want to be the moderate Republican in the race.

The two men met briefly at the parade. Pleasantries were exchanged. Families were hugged. And then, the two candidates separated and marched with their own supporters.

The more conservative candidates in the Republican pack decided to spend their Independence Day in a whole different state: Iowa. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is in the middle of a bus tour of the state.

(Soundbite of music)

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota; Republican Presidential Candidate): Whooa. We're here to party. Good to see you guys. I'm glad you're here. Hi there.

(Soundbite of applause)

SMITH: Bachmann addressed a Tea Party rally at the state capitol on Saturday.

Rep. BACHMANN: They should be afraid of the Tea Party because the Tea Party is made up of a huge swath of America that's come together in a commonsense voice and have said no new taxes.

(Soundbite of applause)

SMITH: But by the time Bachmann hit the parades this morning, she too was going light on the political rhetoric and heavy on the handshaking. She weaved back and forth along the parade route in Clear Lake, Iowa, to hit every spectator.

And like Romney, Bachmann found herself sharing the parade with a rival: former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also chose Clear Lake.

At least one candidate resisted the patriotic call to Iowa and New Hampshire. Businessman Herman Cain couldn't resist going to the cradle of liberty for the Fourth. He spoke at the Tea Party event at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Cain is running in third place in the polls in Iowa, and he's trying to cement his connection to social conservatives, featuring this video on his website for the Fourth.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HERMAN CAIN (Republican Presidential Candidate): I was speaking at tea parties before it was cool.

SMITH: Now, all these may seemed like patriotic theater, but political scientist Andrew Smith says that's OK. Smith heads up the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, and he says showing up at a parade may not be that important but...

Professor ANDREW SMITH (University of New Hampshire Survey Center): They're really important if you don't do them, and the candidates who tend to do well are ones that are able to perform well in that environment because what it does is it shows that they have sympathy or an understanding with the regular voter out there.

SMITH: And maybe some of those warm patriotic images will linger in the mind in the cold days of February when voting begins.

Robert Smith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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