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Romney takes a Northern Pass

Huntsman boosts energy; the Perry buzz

When Mitt Romney has breakfast this morning at a $500-a-person fundraiser in the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan, he'll count Greg Butler among the event's 88 co-chairs.

Butler co-chaired a similar New York fundraiser in September. He donated money to Romney's 2008 presidential campaign and donated $2,500 to the former Massachusetts governor in May.

He's also senior vice president and general counsel for the Northern Pass project, a plan to import hydroelectric energy from Canada along 180 miles of new transmission lines in New Hampshire.

That could cause some trouble for Romney among Northern Pass opponents, who have been vocal in the North Country and elsewhere in the state about the project and the possibility of land being taken by eminent domain for it.

'You're talking about 180 miles of irate voters that will register their disconnect by casting negative votes

against candidates like Romney and positive votes for anybody that comes out in opposition to the Northern Pass,' said Joe Drinon, a retired financial adviser and anti-Northern Pass activist from Chichester.

Drinon, a registered Republican, said Romney's tie to a Northern Pass official 'is just too close for me. And I was going to vote for Romney. I think it's fair to say my wife was considering it seriously. And there's no way - no way - I'll vote for Romney. I don't care if they run the dogcatcher against him. I'll vote for the dogcatcher.'

A copy of the fundraiser invitation was provided by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Butler's role was first reported by Monitor alum Shira Schoenberg for The Boston Globe.

A message seeking comment from Butler was left with a Northern Pass spokesman.

For the record, Romney hasn't come out in support of Northern Pass. But he hasn't exactly come out against it, either.

'Governor Romney hasn't seen the specifics of a final Northern Pass proposal, but he strongly supports local control and opposes any attempt to use eminent domain to take private property for the purposes of a private enterprise,' spokesman Ryan Williams wrote in an email.

That's about what Romney said in a June 13 debate at St. Anselm College, where he said that 'if land is going to be taken for purposes of a private enterprise, that's the wrong way to go.'

That doesn't satisfy Drinon.

'That's not enough,' he said. 'That's political speak for, 'I don't want to take a stand.' '

And Romney wasn't shy this summer about jumping into another hot-button state issue, backing efforts to pass a right-to-work law over Gov. John Lynch's veto.

Mary Lee, a Northern Pass opponent from Northfield, said she thinks the project has made energy policy in general a more pressing issue for voters in the state. And she doesn't like that Romney has fundraising ties to a project official.

But, she said, she wasn't going to vote for him, anyway.

Independent political analyst Dean Spiliotes said, while there are single-issue voters at both the national and state levels, he thinks Northern Pass probably won't drive the primary election, which so far has been dominated by economic issues.

And unlike right-to-work, he said, there may not be much incentive for Romney to take a strong stand.

'I think there are plenty of opportunities for candidates to sidestep these kind of issues, and I think the payoff is pretty ambiguous for them,' Spiliotes said, adding, 'It would only be an issue if you get a sense that these single-issue voters, that they can harness the opposition to the project in a way that makes things uncomfortable for them.'

Huntsman boosts energy

Jon Huntsman called yesterday for more domestic energy production and increased research into new energy sources.

He also called for more diverse options for transportation fuel, describing the current system as 'essentially closed to competition because of gasoline's de facto monopoly for light-duty vehicles and diesel's near-monopoly for heavy-duty vehicles.'

Huntsman delivered a speech on energy policy at the University of New Hampshire, wrapping up a four-day visit to the state that included an unseasonable pre-Halloween snowstorm and the candidate being bitten by a goat named Izak. (Izak's owner told the New Hampshire Union Leader that the bite, in Dover on Sunday, was more of a 'friendly nibble.')

The former Utah governor and ambassador to China spoke yesterday after touring UNH's cogeneration plant, and said energy policy would be a focus if elected.

'Energy security can no longer be a catchphrase; it will be a driving force behind my administration's agenda,' Huntsman said, according to prepared remarks. 'Because this is an issue critical to solving two of America's most urgent challenges: putting people back to work, and ending our heroin-like addiction to foreign oil.'

He said he favors streamlined approval for domestic oil drilling, including in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, and so-called 'fracking' to uncover natural gas deposits. He also said the United States should 'build an environment that will promote innovation and help foster the next generation of energy technologies.'

And, Huntsman said, he would roll back regulations to make it easier to convert cars to run on natural gas, and encourage the Federal Trade Commission and Senate Judiciary Committee to 'commence an expedited review of the fuel distribution network' and 'oil's monopoly.'

I'll have what he's having

Rick Perry's speech to a Cornerstone Action dinner in Manchester is attracting some buzz.

A video showing highlights from Friday's speech has been making the rounds on the internet in recent days. 'Is this the weirdest Rick Perry speech ever?' asked Mother Jones. Politico called it 'bizarre' and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram described the Texas governor as 'spirited and giggling.'

Gawker cut to the chase: 'Just How Drunk Is Rick Perry in This Video?'

Kevin Smith, who left his job as Cornerstone's executive director this week as he mulls a gubernatorial run, said he was with Perry for about two hours before the speech and didn't see him drinking.

'He obviously was more animated and spirited than we've seen him prior, but I was with him for a good part of the evening prior to the speech and to me, he seemed very sharp,' Smith said. 'He was very engaging with people the entire evening. . . . I think he was in a very good mood that evening.'

Perry spokesman Mark Miner told The Huffington Post that 'the governor is passionate about the issues he talks about.'

Gardner's choice

Bill Gardner's lips are sealed - but not for much longer.

The secretary of state will, at last, reveal the date of the New Hampshire presidential primary this morning at the State House.

After Nevada moved its caucus back to Feb. 4 from Jan. 14, the betting money is on a Jan. 10 primary in the Granite State.

Still, Gardner wouldn't tip his hand yesterday.

'It's not going to surprise anyone, I don't think,' he allowed.

Occupy Iowa

The 99 percent are headed for Des Moines.

The Des Moines Register reports Occupy Iowa, the local offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests, issued an invitation this week to protesters across the nation to help occupy the state campaign offices of presidential candidates.

They're still working out the details, but the Register said sit-ins may be held at both GOP and Democratic offices in December and up to the Jan. 3 caucus.

'You go inside or if they won't let you in, you shut 'em down. You sit in front of their doors,' said Frank Cordaro, a Des Moines resident who came up with the idea, according to the Register. It was endorsed by the Occupy Iowa 'general assembly' Monday evening.

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn dismissed it a 'publicity stunt.'

Homeschoolersfor Paul

Ron Paul has added three New Hampshire residents to his 'Homeschoolers for Ron Paul' group.

The Paul campaign announced yesterday that Epsom resident Lee Button, North Haverhill state representative Paul Ingbretson and former state representative Tom Langlais of Epsom would join the group.

'Parents are really the core educators of every child, and those who want to take on that role in its entirety should be free to do so. Schools exist to serve children and families, not the other way around,' said Button, the former president of Christian Home Educators of New Hampshire, in a statement. 'Ron Paul is the only candidate who has consistently fought to preserve parents' right as educators.'

Quote of the Day

'Five years of campaigning come down to 10 weeks for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. And if the first-in-the-nation primary goes out not with a bang but a yawn, that's just fine with him.'

-Dante Scala, University of New Hampshire political-science professor, in a column for Politico.

Candidate Tracker

• Buddy Roemer will be at the Draft, 67 S. Main St. in Concord, this afternoon at 5 for a 'Primary Patch at The Draft' Q&A.

• Mitt Romney will be in Exeter tomorrow to discuss fiscal policy ahead of a speech to Americans For Prosperity in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Tomorrow's event will be held at the Exeter Town Hall at 5:30 p.m.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.)