Checking In with New Hampshire as Primary Nears Felice Belman, executive editor of the Concord Monitor, and Joe McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, talk with Melissa Block about their newspapers' endorsements of presidential candidates and about how things are shaping up with New Hampshire voters before the Jan. 8 primary.
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Checking In with New Hampshire as Primary Nears

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Checking In with New Hampshire as Primary Nears

Checking In with New Hampshire as Primary Nears

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The New Hampshire primary on January 8 follows the Iowa caucuses by just five days. And that's where we turn our attention next. We're going to hear from two newspaper executives there. Felice Belman, executive editor of the Concord Monitor, and Joe McQuaid, publisher of The New Hampshire Union Leader. Welcome to you both.

Ms. FELICE BELMAN (Executive Editor, Concord Monitor): Thank you.

Mr. JOE MCQUAID (Publisher, The New Hampshire Union Leader): Thank you.

BLOCK: The Monitor has a liberal editorial and The Union Leader is quite conservative. But you both agree on one thing. You both have run strident editorials against Republican Mitt Romney. Are you surprised to find yourself in agreement on that?

Ms. BELMAN: Not on this one, I don't think so. Not if you're paying attention to this race. I think that journalists who for the past two years have been watching the Republican race in New Hampshire. Many papers have come to similar decisions about endorsements and that sort of thing, and it felt not surprising to me actually.

BLOCK: Joe McQuaid?

Mr. MCQUAID: We, on the other hand, are surprised if we agree on the weather with the Concord Monitor.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCQUAID: So we're thinking of changing our position entirely.

BLOCK: I see. Well, Joe McQuaid, your paper is kind of endorsed John McCain, and The Union Leader ran this editorial yesterday. You wrote, Romney lacks something John McCain has in spades: conviction. Granite Staters want a candidate who will look them in the eye and tell them the truth, never wavering, never pandering.

Mr. MCQUAID: I think that sort of follows up on what Felice's paper said about Romney. If you wanted a presidential candidate out of a kit, I think they said, put all the pieces together, you'd have Romney. But there's something missing there, and that's, as we said, core conviction.

BLOCK: And Felice, you wrote that editorial in the Concord Monitor against Romney, the anti-endorsement.

Ms. BELMAN: Yeah. It was the opinion of our editorial board, but I did write it. And the gist of our editorial was basically, as Joe said, he certainly looks like a president. But we were distressed by the fact that he seems to have been on both sides of many issues important to many people, leaving you to wonder where the truth of it all is.

BLOCK: Now, will the Concord Monitor endorse someone as oppose to run an anti-endorsement?

Ms. BELMAN: Yeah, we will. We haven't yet, but we do plan to endorse candidates on both sides, both a Republican and a Democratic candidate.

BLOCK: I think a lot of people are wondering what's going on in New Hampshire. It's a state that's known as a Republican stronghold, but it took a big swerve to the Democratic side back in 2006, both in races for Congress and state wise. So what is going on, Joe McQuaid?

Mr. MCQUAID: Oh, I think it's history repeating itself. Back in the late 1970's, we had a Democratic governor and two Democratic U.S. senators and a Democratic congressman. The one difference this time is the, is the legislature also changed from red to blue. And I think that's the first time in 100 years that that has happened. We'll have to see if it continues or not.

BLOCK: Do you think it will?

Mr. MCQUAID: Well, I think that people have been asking about who's going to win here in January. And I think it's - I still think it's going to be Hillary, and I think she's going to be very strong in, in the fall up here and could help solidify the Democratic gains.

BLOCK: Felice Belman, what about you?

Ms. BELMAN: You know, one thing that changed not just since '06 but, say, in the past 10 years is the growing number of voters who are registered undeclared, which means that in a primary, they can vote on one side or another. It also means they're unpredictable. They're not a block in the sense that they all think the same thing. And it's something, like, 40 percent of the electorate now. And so you don't know in our primary which ballot they're going to take and what they're thinking. And I do think that that played into the '06 results here and probably across the country to some extent, too.

BLOCK: And I think a large percentage of those undeclared voters have said that they are leaning Democratic in this primary.

Mr. MCQUAID: I don't know if they've said that or if that's been the press speculation. And I think that may have changed somewhat. Early on, it was the Democrats had the sexier race, if you will, with, with Obama versus Hillary. And a lot of attention paid to it, and therefore McCain, for instance, wasn't going to get the benefit of the independence as he had in 2000 because they were going to go Democratic. I think that some of the independents, and Felice is right, they're all over the lot, but some of them are looking at Ron Paul, of all people, to form a Libertarian candidate.

BLOCK: I wanted to ask you about Ron Paul, the Libertarian running on the Republican side. And there's a lot of talk that he could do very well in New Hampshire. Do you think that's true?

Mr. MCQUAID: He doesn't show up much in the polls, but yes, I do think it's true that he could do very well here. I don't think he'll do well past here, but I think he's going to surprise people here.

BLOCK: Hmm. And the question there would be, whom does Ron Paul siphon votes from, Felice?

Ms. BELMAN: Well, that's what's so amazing about his campaign. His issues are so dispirit that he's going to pull from all sorts of people. I mean, there are strong fiscal conservatives who like his stance on taxes and the budget. There are anti-abortion people who like the fact that he shares their views. There are anti-war people who share his views. And so that's not a typical kind of primary voter. And it's - he'll take away from - a little bit for everybody, I would think.

BLOCK: Do New Hampshire voters care what Iowa does? Do you think the results in Iowa will be any kind of predictor for what happens in the New Hampshire primary?

Ms. BELMAN: I think voters particularly think that way. I think if there's a surprise in Iowa on either side, it'll make people, perhaps, reconsider whoever that surprising winner is. But I don't think people are waiting to make up their own line based on, well, we'll see what Iowa does.

Mr. MCQUAID: Well, there's a guy here who's Romney's big and, I think, only name supporter named Judd Gregg, who is a senior U.S. senator. And he made what I think is a mistake. It's probably true for New Hampshire people, but he said that the saying was in Iowa, they pick corn and in New Hampshire, the pick presidents. You're supposed to say that after your guy either wins or loses in Iowa, not before.

BLOCK: You know, the primary coming his early in January means you guys are going to be very lonely up there for the rest of the month in New Hampshire.

Ms. BELMAN: Yeah, we've been talking about that a lot. I mean, our staff is doing almost exclusively presidential primary coverage. And I feel bad for our readers who aren't into it, but it's all going to just disappear come the 10th of January after we report the results.

BLOCK: Well, thanks to you both.

Ms. BELMAN: Thank you.

Mr. MCQUAID: Thank you.

BLOCK: Joe McQuaid, publisher of The New Hampshire Union Leader and Felice Belman, executive editor of the Concord Monitor.

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