Tea Party May Influence New Hampshire Debate

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Manchester, N. H. -- The campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is heating up as GOP candidates prepare to square off in a prime time televised debate Monday night.

They had better be on their toes as voters in this early primary state appear to be in a Tea Party frame of mind.

"It's not your typical New Hampshire indoor picnic lunch. This one is filled with elephants. It's the Hillsborough County Republican Picnic, considered to be one of the big 2012 campaign kickoff events.

But hot dogs and hamburgers are not the only items on the menu -- so are the topics of the budget and high unemployment, the top two concerns of New Hampshire voters. It's no coincidence you see Tea Party souvenirs and hear a familiar agenda.

"I think New Hampshire is the Tea Party voters. The principles you're now seeing as the Tea Party principles across the country have always been New Hampshire principles," Stephen Lee, a New Hampshire voter, told CBN News.

"New Hampshire is a state that had been a very conservative state for a long time, and it's not as much now as it used to be, but we're definitely leaning that way again and we want some major changes," New Hampshire resident Hilary Sonner said.

"We're in trouble. We don't want no candy coating. We want to hear that we're in trouble because that will rally people, and I want to hear solutions of what they're going to do," explained John Burt, another New Hampshire voter.

Some GOP candidates, like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain, came to offer what voters want to hear.

"I have run stuff, fixed stuff, turned stuff around, started stuff and solved stuff. I have a long record of stuff and I want to take it to the White House," Cain told an assembled audience.

Whether it's Republican picnic events like this one or any big event in New Hampshire for that matter, you can be sure that you'll see all the GOP candidates show up. That's not happening in Iowa, the state that will vote right before New Hampshire.

For the first time, some candidates like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman have decided not to compete in that more conservative state. But in New Hampshire, it's a free for all.

Romney is banking on a win to propel him to victory, much like a 2008 win did for Sen. John McCain, R - Ariz. His opposition knows they need to make a stop here or Romney could run away with the nomination.

Candidates like Pawlenty are hitting the tavern circuit like the one in Derry, N.H. to appeal to Republican voters hit hard by the economy.

"Barack Obama and his administration this summer said it was going to be the summer of recovery, remember that? Recovery summer! How was your recovery summer? You didn't need to get too much SPF out for that one did you?" Pawlenty said.

This early debate is important because polls in the state show nearly three-quarters of voters haven't made up their minds yet.

"I'm one of those. I have not jumped on anybody's campaign right now. I'm in education mode," Gary Robbins, a voter, told CBN News.

And the people in the Granite State know they play a big role at the polls.

"In New Hampshire, this is Friday night football for us. It's our state sport," said Jennifer Horn, another New Hampshire voter.

The GOP crowd takes the field Monday night with the goal of making a good first impression on the debate stage.

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CBN News
David Brody

David Brody

CBN News Chief Political Correspondent

David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.