CONCORD, N.H. (Jan. 6, 2012) — Carl Paladino, who captured the hearts of Tea party Republicans in his 2010 bid for governor, comes to New Hampshire on Saturday to support presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich is “a guy that will provide real solid leadership and allow the people a comfort of not living in fear any longer,” Paladino said in a telephone interview.
Paladino officially endorsed Gingrich, former speaker of the House, in December. He is among a contingent of several Western New Yorkers coming to New Hampshire to support Gingrich. In his own New York gubernatorial race, Paladino, who is from Buffalo, did not fare well outside of Western New York. But he did gain significant support around the Buffalo region.
In the telephone interview, Paladino said that rather than attending campaign events he plans to spend time with Gingrich’s policy team. Several Buffalo-area Republicans will join Paladino. They include Donna McCartney, secretary of the Erie County Republican Committee. McCartney could not be reached for comment.
For Primary Day, on Jan. 10, Tony Gioia, former ambassador to Malta and a prominent Republican fundraiser, is coming to New Hampshire to support Mitt Romney. He originally gravitated to Romney because he seemed like the best candidate to beat President Obama, he said. But since he has learned more about Romney and met him on several occasions, Gioia has become a strong Romney supporter.
“It’s growing as I learn more about more about him,” Gioia said.
For Paladino, part of Gingrich’s appeal is his anti-establishment view. Paladino ran for New York governor on a similar message in 2010. Paladino also cites Gingrich’s knowledge of Washington, his institutional memory, his debate performance and his knowledge on the issues as reasons for backing Gingrich.
Americans, Paladino said, are afraid for their children because the country is financially weak. “The Republican establishment doesn’t get it,” he said.
It’s not clear whether the efforts of Paladino or other New Yorkers will mean anything in the New Hampshire race. Endorsements rarely change voters’ minds, no matter how prominent the person, said Carl Calbrese, former deputy county executive in Erie County and a prominent Republican politician. But given Paladino’s success in Western New York in 2010, his support for Gingrich could prompt some voters to take a closer look, Calbrese said.
“Amongst Republican voters Carl Paladino is taken very seriously,” Calbrese said. “He did very well in the general election in Western New York so he’s obviously tapped into something up here.”
Western New Yorkers typically vote more conservative than downstate New Yorkers, Calbrese said. And this year, most Republican voters are testing candidates with a two-part test: Are they conservative enough? And are they electable?
Some candidates who don’t pass both parts of the test have already been thrown out, he said, and voters are continuing to assess the remaining candidates. This year in particular, Calbrese said, the primary is an open, unpredictable process.
Said Calbrese: “New Hampshire’s always been a state that can throw curveballs.”
(Kathleen Ronayne, a senior with dual majors in newspaper journalism and political science, is covering the New Hampshire primary for The Buffalo News.)