I spoke recently to a contingent of female Republican activists from New Hampshire. They are in town to meet with wonks and policy gurus, and to talk politics.
What they told me confirmed several key points about the 2012 race. First, they are already bored with the candidates. “[Rick] Santorum has been to New Hampshire something like 17 times,” said one. “He’s played in every golf tournament.” In the 24/7 news cycle and with the swarm of candidates those who started early (even if they didn’t formally declare) are now stale. Another woman added, “They’ve oversaturated.”
Well, whom do they like? The mention of Mitt Romney and his fundraising prowess gets a few wrinkled noses and a grimace or two. One woman suggests that the image of someone cultivating “big-money donors” is bad for the GOP. “If someone gives you five dollars,” she says, “they are going to vote for you.”
The same woman makes a key point. “Republicans need to think of these as two different offices. We have to find someone [in the VP slot] who could run in 2016. We don’t do a good job of grooming people for the future.”
The good news for non-candidates is that all of the women (“We’re the people who staff the campaign,” one gal explains) say they are not committing. “When I know the panel then I’ll commit,” says one.
It is clear, though, that domestic economic issues are key. However, none seem enamored of the neo-isolationist trend. There is widespread agreement that the party needs to be more welcoming to immigrants, while maintaining its law and order principles on illegal immigration.
These women have more to do with selecting the next presidential nominee than all the pundits in D.C. They will attend endless town-hall meetings, “kick the tires,” ask hard questions and eventually commit. The good news for Republicans — they seem much smarter and better judges of character than 90 percent of the D.C. pundits. I suspect they will choose wisely.