It’s never too early for presidential politics in New Hampshire. And in this first-primary-in-the-nation state, it almost seemed as if the campaign kicked off Friday.
Four prospective Republican candidates appeared together at a Tax Day-Tea Party rally, calling for lower taxes and major cuts in federal spending. Several hundred attended the event, held on the front lawn of the historic statehouse in the crisp New England sun, and sponsored by the group, Americans For Prosperity.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former U.S. Sen. for Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, ex-Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, and businessman Herman Cain, one-time head of Godfather’s Pizza, all attended and spoke.
The potential political rivals sounded a common theme: the federal government budget needs to be deeply trimmed, and taxes cut, to restore the nation's economic vitality.
He asked the crowd "have you had enough of big government and big unions and big bail out businesses scratching each others back asking you to get your wallet out to pay for their recklessness and stupidity?," to which the attendees shouted "yes!"
"It takes a real re-awakening, it takes a Tea Party in generations, to re-establish those burning founding principles that made America that shining city on the hill," proclaimed Santorum, "What's at stake right now is a group of people who want you to believe that you need them, that you need to be taken care of, that you need to be provided for....the battle for freedom, fundamentally in America, is right here."
"We have a tax code that is 4,000 pages long and you can't read it," Roemer told the crowd. "We have a debt for the rest of our lives...We spend $300 billion a month and borrow $120 billion from our competitors. The game is rigged...the American Revolution was about a Tea Party, taxation without representation. I think it's time for a second revolution."
In a rousing address reminiscent of a preacher, Herman Cain said "stupid people are ruining this country … The sleeping giant, ‘ we the people,' has awakened, and it's not going back to sleep...'we the people' are still in charge of this country...let the people keep what they earn. What a novel idea!"
Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts and another expected GOP candidate, did not attend the event. But in an op-ed piece in the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote: "for the first time in the post World War II era, there is a significant popular movement to scale back government and reduce the tax burden...Members of the Tea Party are making their voices heard."
Counter-protestors walked around the outskirts of the rally, mostly college students, who chanted such slogans as "school budget cuts, you've got to be nuts'...don't tread on me, I will be free'...and "Tea Party keep the fear, we'll see you next year."
"The key to the Tea Party and I think if you talk to potential presidential candidates, they understand that their ability to really answer the Tea Party questions relate primarily to fiscal responsible issues," noted Corey Lewandowski, chairman of the New Hampshire Americans for Prosperity chapter, which sponsored the event. "If the Tea Party stays on that message, I think they can have a big impact in the upcoming election."
Americans for Prosperity will hold an economic conference here later this month. Both Romney and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota are among those expected to attend.
Follow Eric Shawn on Twitter: @EricShawnTV