NASHUA - Politicians and activists from across the nation spent Saturday strategizing and networking during the second day of the 2014 Northeast Republican Leadership Conference at the Crowne Plaza, gathering momentum for the November election and eventually the presidential race.
"We have lost our way over the past several years. You win by knocking on doors," Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said during a panel discussion that also involved advisers to former presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. The roadmap to victory is to attract Republicans who may have previously switched to supporting the Democratic Party, Scarborough said.
"It is not enough that you get people voting ... you have to bring people back home," said Scarborough, a former Florida congressman who recently told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he has not ruled out the possibility of again running for office.
Scarborough was one of 20 potential presidential candidates included in a WPA Opinion Research survey conducted at the conference. Others included former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum.
"We don't have to shoot at each other inside of the tent," contended Scarborough, who is confident Republicans will come out on top later this year. The challenge, he said, will be remaining on top two years later.
During the panel discussion, participants said it's crucial for candidates to be straight with voters in New Hampshire, where the nation's first presidential primary is held.
In the Granite State, the underdog story is what is important, said Michael Biundo, who previously managed Santorum's presidential campaign. Once candidates leave New Hampshire, the campaign becomes all about the money, he said.
The playbook for winning the New Hampshire primary must emphasize visits to coffee shops, meetings with factory workers and connecting with local residents, said Biundo.
"That is what it takes to win this state," he said, adding it is not about the candidate with the best speech or the deepest pockets, but rather their commitment and their qualities.
"I think New Hampshire has proven that it gives everyone a fair shot," agreed Jim Merrill, former state director for the Romney campaign.
While Merrill had no announcements regarding Romney's future political intentions, Merrill did say he would be pleased if Romney took another stab at the White House.
"New Hampshire really made him a better candidate," he said.
Paul Young, former senior adviser to Perry, echoed the sentiments that New Hampshire has a unique climate for welcoming candidates. It is a privilege to visit the state, shake hands with residents and really get the opportunity to show a candidate's sincerity, he said.
"The toughest part is you have to be prepared to answer tough questions - not from reporters. The tough questions come from the crowds," he said.
A candidate can truly make his or her mark in New Hampshire, said Andy Demers, a political consultant who worked on Paul's campaign, adding the people of this state take their responsibility as the first primary voters very seriously. Demers said he also had no announcements to make in regards to Paul's possible run for office.
"Here in New Hampshire, we do not take the first-in-the-nation (primary status) for granted," said Jennifer Horn, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Committee.
National campaigns can easily take over elections, maintained Horn, stressing New Hampshire residents focus on true grassroots initiatives.
Three emerging leaders were highlighted during a town hall forum at Saturday's convention, including Rep. Tony Hwang of Connecticut, Sen. Bryce Reeves of Virginia and state Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford.
Each of them took the podium in an effort to inspire the GOP to continue the fight to win back the country.
"We have to be the compass leaders for our children," said Reeves, who spent $1.2 million on his election.
The former Army Ranger said that in order to move the nation forward, it must look toward the past.
He urged those in attendance to follow in the path of former President Ronald Reagan, saying Reagan was a man from humble beginnings who guided America with humble leadership.
"It does matter when you care. It does matter when you show authenticity," agreed Hwang, who hopes to win a state Senate seat.
Republicans have the opportunity to make advancements and win elections in the Northeast, according to Hwang, who said the GOP can be the Big Tent party.
"We have not won local races of significance," said Hwang. "We need to fight for the Republican brand."
New Hampshire used to be exceptional, said Sanborn, maintaining it could be once again with proven Republican solutions to problems such as unemployment and by promoting the right policies and improving communications.
Other speakers Saturday included former Gov. John H. Sununu, former Gov. Jim Douglas and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.