Monday, March 26, 2007

My Kinda Prez Candidate

GOP '08 hopeful keeps visit low-key

Telegraph Staff

NASHUA – When Republican presidential candidate John McCain toured the state on a recent stormy weekend, he hired a plow to lead his bus full of staffers, supporters and a "60 Minutes" news crew.

When fellow hopeful Mitt Romney swept through New Hampshire in February, he was traveling with a small entourage of cars full of assistants.

But when yet another GOP presidential contender, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif ., rolled into the parking lot of the Broad Street Country Store in Nashua on Sunday, it was in a rented Ford SUV.

Store owner Vahrij Manoukian rushed to the passenger side to greet Hunter.

"I said, 'Congressman, how are you?' " Manoukian recalled. "He said, 'I'm not the congressman. I'm the aide.' "

Hunter, it turns out, did his own driving during his visit to the Granite State , which included stops in Goffstown and Keene.

To a crowd of about 50 gathered at the store, the 14-term House member paid little attention to McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Romney, who are widely recognized as theHunter pointed to two recent straw polls – informal votes used to gauge people's opinions – in which he had strong showings South Carolina and Arizona.

And Hunter stands by his main concerns, which are defense, securing the country's borders and bolstering manufacturing jobs, which he says have been pushed overseas.

China is "cheating on trade" by devaluing its currency, Hunter said. The Chinese government gives subsidies to exporters, which ultimately lowers prices and pushes American goods off the shelves.

If elected, he pledged to review trade agreements and take action with countries that aren't complying.

Hunter touted his border-control record, citing a wall built in the 1990s between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, that he said knocked down drug-smuggling by 90 percent and slashed San Diego's crime rate. He has written legislation to extend that wall by 854 miles, stretching through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

An audience member asked his opinion on Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, two Texas Border Patrol agents who, while on duty, shot a Mexican drug-runner non-fatally.

They were each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, and the issue has generated controversy because some feel the two men should be pardoned. Hunter agreed and said he would do the same if elected.

"I definitely liked his views on illegal immigration and on pardoning the agents," said Candi Mann of Hudson, adding that she didn't share his concerns about international trade because she's unfamiliar with the policies.

"He's a very detail-oriented guy, which makes an effective congressman," said Mark LeDoux of Hollis. "My suggestion in his campaign is to spare some of the details . . . and stick with the big picture."

Dan Hogan of Nashua said was impressed with Hunter's pro-life stance and said he'd keep an eye on the candidate, no matter what the standings say.

"The media has been saying for some time that the Republican people are not terribly enamored with the top three," Hogan said. "I'd say (Hunter) stands as good a chance as anybody."

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