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Sunday, January 15, 2012

As primary buzz leaves New Hampshire, campaign volunteers say their ‘work is done’

NASHUA – For months, local man David Murotake sacrificed extra time with his family and put off projects at work to knock on doors and campaign for Ron Paul. That effort ended last week, after Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

Murotake wasn’t alone. He was part of the grass-roots push that many political campaigns rely on in New Hampshire. Volunteers do the grunt work – making phone calls and walking door to door – to spread the message of their chosen candidate, many times out of passion and a belief in the politician’s words.

But once the race ends and moves on to another state, most volunteers breath a sigh of relief and fade back to reality.

“A lot of us put aside things we would normally do,” Murotake said. “I don’t think I’ll be putting in a lot of time (for the campaign) going into the future. I’m going to try to catch up on work.”

Murotake serves on Nashua’s Board of Education and owns a small business in Nashua, SCA Technica. He spent months with the Ron Paul campaign, but now that it’s over he said he’ll put that time back into his everyday life.

The Ron Paul offices in New Hampshire are packed up and ready for another tenant. Campaign spokesman Brian Early said volunteers have been collecting signs and other materials this week to send them to other states for coming primaries, but most of the effort in New Hampshire is finished.

The same is true for Mitt Romney’s campaign, which also is packed up. Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said the office lease is good through February, but the campaign has yet to decide whether it will keep the same office going forward.

Some staffers from New Hampshire will be deployed to South Carolina and Florida, Williams said, and could come back to the Granite State to campaign if Romney secures the Republican nomination. The campaign also will reopen its offices in New Hampshire if he wins the nomination.

“At this point our staff, both locally and nationally, are focused on competing in some of the upcoming contests,” he said. “But we will maintain a presence in New Hampshire because it is a key general election swing state.”

Williams predicted that Romney, if he wins the nomination, would beat President Obama in New Hampshire in the general election thanks to the campaign’s efforts here.

“We expect to be back competing in New Hampshire vigorously prior to the general election,” Williams said.

Unlike Romney, who won Tuesday’s primary comfortably, Texas Gov. Rick Perry had a poor showing – he placed sixth with less than 1 percent of the vote.

The lack of votes for Perry left something to be desired for his volunteers, like Nashua’s Peter Silva.

“Honestly, I thought he would do better than that,” said Silva, a state representative for District 26 in Hillsborough County. “At the same time, I was not disillusioned at all that he was going to win. He left to go to South Carolina for a reason.”

Silva introduced Perry at several New Hampshire events and lobbied other state representatives to endorse Perry, but now that the race is over, Silva said his job is too.

“If he goes further and I can help him, I’ll still help him, but I think my work is done,” he said.

Few volunteers from any campaign will travel from New Hampshire to other states, Silva said, but some will continue their efforts from home. Many New Hampshire volunteers from Rick Santorum’s campaign will do that, according to campaign manager Mike Biundo.

“A lot of them could do what we need them to do from here,” he said.

Biundo added that Santorum’s offices in New Hampshire will be open until the end of January, but its future after that is uncertain.

Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, has made New Hampshire his regional hub for New England.

His campaign offices in Manchester will stay open through the Maine caucuses, held Feb. 4-11, and full operations will continue, according to Sam Pimm, director of the campaign’s field operations in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire staff and volunteers will keep plugging away – making phone calls and putting up signs – although their efforts will be in surrounding states.

“I think everybody’s staying on,” Pimm said. “We hope eventually this will be a two-man race between Romney and Newt, and eventually Newt will overtake him.”

Hollis resident Richard Lawrence worked as a Gingrich volunteer for several months leading up to the primary. His belief in Gingrich remains strong, despite a fourth-place finish in Tuesday’s primary, and he will continue to help the campaign as much as he can.

“If there is an opportunity for me to assist, I’m happy to help where I can,” he said. “I think there are still some opportunities going forward.”

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Kittle (@Telegraph_CamK) on Twitter.