NEWPORT, N.H. (Jan. 5, 2012) — The Village of Newport isn’t much bigger than the Village of Manlius — unless a presidential candidate is visiting.
When a politician like Mitt Romney rolls into town, for example, Newport — normal normal population about 5,000 — swells with reporters, staffers and campaign followers.
For Scott Bentley, manager of Village Pizza on Main Street, a visit by Romney on Dec. 21 was a bonanza with people even standing in the kitchen. “It was the most people we’ve ever had in here,” Bentley said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Henry Rodeschin, a Republican, co-owns Rody’s Gun Shop down the road. He was at the Romney gathering at Village Pizza. “You had to walk sideways,” he said.
Rodeschin is a big Romney supporter. He has posted a line of signs in the field of his property. Romney was very personable, Rodeschin said. But, he said, he supports Romney because of Romney’s policies.
“He has the experience of being a former governor for four years and a successful businessman. He believes in free enterprise,” Rodeschin said. Plus, he added, he thinks Romney can work with Democrats “to get things done.”
Rodeschin, as a gunshop owner, also approves of Romney’s support of the 2nd Amendment’s protection for gun ownership. The Number 1 employer in Newport is, after all, Strum, Ruger & Co., a firearms manufacturer. The company employs 800 people.
“I call New Hampshire liberal on the gun issue,” said Rodeschin. “It’s a very pro-gun state. Generally, we believe people should have guns if they want them. Here, they come in, we do a background check and they walk out with a gun.”
Newport Chief of Police James Burroughs said the village draws many candidates. “Newport has always been a visiting spot,” he said, “but it only gets busy when the candidates come in to town. They hold up traffic, but it’s quick in, quick out.”
On Thursday evening, Jon Huntsman was scheduled to have a town hall meeting at the local recreation center.
That makes P.J. Lovely, the owner of the rec center, happy. He was pleased, he said, to think that Huntsman’s campaign chose the location for its small, hometown feel. “How I feel about Huntsman doesn’t really matter,” said Lovely. “It’s good to have someone here.”
Media personnel and campaign staffers have a history of taking over in New Hampshire. Pat Tremblay, owner of Country Kitchen Restaurant, described his diner when George Bush visited Newport in 2000. “It was a 3-ring circus,” Tremblay said. “Reporters were standing on the counters. It was over the top.”
While the influx of people can be overwhelming, Tremblay sees the positive. “They won’t go away hungry,” he said. He recommends the pancakes.
“I don’t like to mix politics and business, but it’s that time of the year,” said Tremblay. “And I like the idea that people can have the opportunity to meet a candidate.”