Busy NH weekend for trio of 2012 contenders

A trio of GOP presidential candidates will travel to New Hampshire over the next several days in an effort to boost their popularity in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is returning to the Granite State for a three-day visit starting Friday, when he’ll attend two small house parties in Stratham and North Conway before attending two weekend events sponsored by county GOP organizations.

Pawlenty, who has formally declared his candidacy, rolled out an economic plan this week that calls for steep tax cuts and dramatic reductions in federal spending —he’s likely to talk it up to New Hampshire voters during his stay.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), another announced candidate, touched down in New Hampshire on Thursday for a two-day visit. The libertarian congressman built up his campaign infrastructure in the state, naming freshman state Sen. Jim Forsythe (R) as his campaign chairman in addition to announcing the hiring of three field staffers.

Paul is looking to make a better showing in the Granite State presidential primary than he did in 2008, when he finished a disappointing fifth.

On Friday, Paul will meet with state GOP powerbroker Ovide Lamontagne, who runs an influential political action committee. Lamontagne burst onto the scene in 2010, when he ran an unsuccessful bid for the GOP’s Senate nomination as a Tea Party-backed candidate.

Pawlenty is also vying for Lamontagne’s support — earlier this month he hired his niece, Erin, as a New Hampshire campaign aide.

Likely GOP candidate Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, will make yet another visit to the Granite State with a jam-packed schedule, which includes a motorcycle ride throughout the state, the route for which ends in Concord.

The former Utah governor signaled in an interview in the National Review earlier this week that a presidential campaign was more of a matter of “when,” and not “if.” And to that end, Huntsman could formally launch his bid for the Republican nomination in a matter of weeks.

Huntsman’s lavished most of his attention on New Hampshire and South Carolina, and has said he’ll likely skip Iowa’s caucuses (something that Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said this week was a “mistake”).

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