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On The (Political) Ground In New Hampshire


New Hampshire Republican Congressman Frank Guinta joins us. He's a veteran of new Hampshire politics as a former state representative and former mayor of Manchester. He joins us from his district office in Manchester.

Congressman Guinta, welcome to the program.

REPRESENTATIVE FRANK GUINTA: It's a pleasure to be with you.

MARTIN: I'd love for you to give us a sense of the state of play in New Hampshire. What are the issues that are really animating people in you state this year? And what are they looking for in a Republican candidate?

GUINTA: Well, I think most people in New Hampshire are looking for a candidate of on the Republican side who can, first of all, the beat President Obama. Secondly, who is capable of focusing like a laser on the economy, you know, job growth.

I find that people in New Hampshire respect President Obama but very much disagree with a lot of his policies. And I think you're going to see a number of republicans, as well as independence, play a role in this primary on Tuesday.

MARTIN: Can you give us a sense of what the job situation is like in New Hampshire? What are the economic issues? What's unemployment at?

GUINTA: We are in a fortunate position - that about 5.2 percent unemployment in New Hampshire. So, comparatively speaking to other states in the country, we are doing well. The challenge though we still have is that our revenues to communities and to the state of New Hampshire is still down. And the underemployment issue is a problem. We have a lot of people who are still looking for a second or third job to try to make ends meet.

So, while we are faring better than most states - and we feel very fortunate for that - I think we still have a long way to go in ensuring that this economy is strong and vibrant.

MARTIN: Obviously, the results from Iowa were very close among three very different candidates. Mitt Romney won by just eight votes over Rick Santorum. Ron Paul was a close third. This seems to suggest an ideological split within the Republican Party. How do you see this?

GUINTA: Well, I think there are ideological differences amongst the candidates. And you're going to have that whether it's a Democratic primary or Republican primary. Iowa voters look at some of the issues a little bit differently than New Hampshire voters. So I think you are seeing, at least with polling that's been released in the last day or so, that Mitt Romney does have a more significant lead in New Hampshire.

Anything can happen in the last 48 hours of a campaign. Some candidates tend to have a little more of a surge than others. But I think in New Hampshire, the unique difference is that you don't see the level of evangelical voter in New Hampshire that you do in Iowa. And the economy is really the focus of the attention here in New Hampshire.

So, I think the candidate that makes the final closing days about jobs, economy, and makes the case for who can best get us out of this situation we're in economically, is the individual who is most likely to succeed in New Hampshire.

MARTIN: If this ends up being a long the primary process, it can be exciting if you're into the horserace of following these things. But what do you think it does to the GOP's chances against President Obama in the general election?

GUINTA: Well, look, I am tend to believe in primaries and I think that they're good for the party. You know, we had this dialogue in the country four years ago in the Democratic side when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama duking it out essentially into the summer months. And I don't think it hurt either one of them. As a matter of fact, I think it made President Obama a stronger candidate. So, I would argue that the same thing could happen on the Republican side.

Now, if you see a fracture or a splinter within the party, as a result of ideological differences, that can be a bit of a challenge. So we've got to be careful as Republicans that we focus the decisions that we all make in early primary states; focusing on issues and who is best equipped to be the strongest challenger and the strongest nominee for our party.

MARTIN: New Hampshire Republican Congressman Frank Guinta. Thanks so much for talking with us.

GUINTA: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.