Paul Steinhauser: Ehrlich says social media key to any 2016 bid
CONCORD - "It's cold, it's really cold."
With temperatures in the single digits Tuesday morning, it was obvious Bob Ehrlich didn't come to New Hampshire for the weather.
"New Hampshire really counts, it's where the action is. It's why everybody comes up," said the former Maryland governor, during an interview at NH1's studio in Concord.
This is the fourth trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state since last summer for Ehrlich, who's mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. But Ehrlich's in no rush to make a decision, adding that "there is no specific timeline."
"I hate to be sort of traditional about this and I know everybody talks about the money, the super PACS and all this stuff, it is your message being heard. Do you have sort of leadership qualities people are looking for. And that's really what this ‘listening tour' is all about. Some politicians go on listening tours and it's not about listening. They've made up their minds. We know that. This is a real listening tour. We're listening as much as I'm talking," Ehrlich added.
Ehrlich was elected governor in blue state Maryland in 2002, becoming the first Republican to run the Democratic dominated state in more than three decades. But Ehrlich was defeated in his 2006 re-election bid by Democratic Mayor Martin O'Malley of Baltimore. Ehrlich also lost a 2010 gubernatorial election rematch with O'Malley.
If he does run for the 2016 GOP nomination, Ehrlich will be considered a very long shot. Asked the tough question of how he can compete against the big bucks being raised by such likely candidates as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ehrlich said "I've raised a lot of money over the years. I've been in Congress, the state legislature, a governor, so we have some pretty good means to raise some dollars and that counts, but you're probably not going to match those dollars."
Ehrlich says social media can level the playing field a bit.
"The game's changed a little bit here. When I first got into politics, when you talked to 100 people in a room, you talked to 100 people in a room. Today you talk to 100 people in a room, you're talking to thousands of people, things go viral pretty quickly. So money's really important, I'm not going to degrade that element, but it's not as important as it used to be," Ehrlich added.
Ehrlich served four terms in the House of Representatives before winning election as governor. He says the Granite State reminds him of his old district in Maryland.
"I'm very comfortable here. I think I get New Hampshire. I think I understand some of the issues, the people, it's been a very comfortable fit for me so far," Ehrlich said.
If he does run, Ehrlich realizes the Granite State's crucial for any shot he has at winning, adding that "you have to do well in New Hampshire, we know that, and so we're going to spend some time here."
While he's been out of office for more than eight years, Ehrlich doesn't see that as a liability.
"It's certainly not the liability it may have been at one point," he said. "I've written two books, I've run around the country talking about real issues, criminal justice reform being one of my causes. Something we did in Maryland before it was cool to do. The great new purple issue in American politics."
Ehrlich kicked off his trip with a GOP meeting at Halligan Tavern in Derry Monday evening. Tuesday he spoke and took questions from students at a forum at New England College in Henniker. He's closing out his visit Tuesday evening with an appearance at a Rockingham County Republican Committee Reception that's being held at the Sheraton in Portsmouth.
Ehrlich was accompanied on his trip by his wife Kendel. He says his wife and two sons are on-board if he decides to make a White House run.
"The 15-year old is in high school, he's a big jock, but he likes politics, he was raised in politics, he gets it, he's interested. The 10-year old, we came home last week, and we had talked about this at dinner time, and he was working on a list, it was a list of 65 names, people he would invite to the White House once we got there. Mostly quarterbacks and WWE wrestlers."