LACONIA — One of the eight Republicans who has announced his candidacy for the presidency — George Pataki, the former governor of New York — and a front runner for the GOP nomination in many of the early polls — Scott Walker, the sitting governor of Wisconsin— were guests of the Belknap County Republican Committee aboard M/S Mt. Washington last evening for the annual Lincoln Day cruise.
They were joined aboard by former governors Bob Ehrlich of Maryland and Jim Gilmore of Virginia, both of whom are contemplating entering the race for the GOP nomination.
The ship cast off shortly after six, without either Walker, who was behind schedule flying to Laconia Airport, or Shawn Jasper, the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, on board. Alan Glassman, who chairs the county committee, announced he considered taking vote of those on board o sail or stay, but instead compromised by sailing to Meredith Bay and then returning to The Weirs to collect the latecomers. Passengers lined the decks as Walker and his wife, Tonette, walked down the gangplank.
"Scott Walker has proven he won't miss the boat twice," one wag quipped.
Walker, likely the most conservative, and Pataki, perhaps the least conservative, among the prospective candidates, stand at opposite ends of the GOP field, which is expected to reach a score of declared candidates. They also rank at opposite ends of the current polls, with Walker topping the list of 15 likely candidates at 14.9 percent and Pataki failing to register in last place. Walker will speak at the home of New Hampshire Representative Brian Gallagher in Sanbornton this morning at 10 a.m.
An evangelical favored by the conservative base of the GOP for his uncompromising stance on social issues and for crippling the power of public employee unions, Walker touted his success with Independent voters, who may well decide the New Hampshire primary. He said he had won three of four elections in Wisconsin with 96 percent of the Republican vote while carrying the Independent vote by 12 percent.
Pataki, who favors a right to abortion, gun control and measures to address climate change, noted that Independents can vote in the primary, but was quick to add that in winning the governorship of New York three times he appealed to the base of the GOP and beyond. Although Pataki is reported to have described his candidacy as a longshot, he said he was "very upbeat" after the reception he received after announcing last week. "I intend to work hard, make the case, believe in the people and believe in myself," he said with the confidence of a man who has never lost an election.
The cruise was Ehrlich's 11th trip to New Hampshire. He said that the state reminded him of the congressional district he represented in Maryland prior to becoming governor in 2003. "We've made some friends here," he said, "and I've had opportunities to talk about the issues I want to talk about." In particular, he said that he has been asked to speak about what he called "the unfortunate chapter of Baltimore." Ehrlich , grew up where the violence erupted, said the addressing the challenge of dysfunctional schools, high employment, drug abuse and rampant crime plaguing the inner cities must be a national priority.
On his sixth visit to the state, Gilmore said he is "seriously considering" becoming a candidate. Apart from his executive experience as governor of Virginia from 1998 to 2002, he touted his experience as a counter-intelligence officer in the United States Army and chairman of a congressional panel assessing the capacity to counter domestic terrorism. He said that national security remained a high priority for the country and would be a major theme of his campaign. "Other candidates don't have my experience," he said. Gilmore announced his candidacy for the presidency in April, 2007, but abandoned his campaign less than three months later for want of sufficient funding.
Representative Frank Tilton of Laconia estimated that more than 500 tickets were sold for the cruise, the most in recent years.
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