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Perry Looks to New Hampshire for Reboot

Gov. Rick Perry this weekend travels to New Hampshire, where he's looking to regroup and, as Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, distinguish himself from his New England-bred competition.

Rick Perry at a house party in New Hampshire on Sept. 3, 2011.

New Hampshire is a crucial primary state. It is not, however, likely to take kindly to Gov. Rick Perry's social conservatism, said Dartmouth College political scientist Linda Fowler.

"This is a libertarian state in many ways, or even socially progressive," Fowler said. "Gay marriage is legal in the state, and there's a strong idea that government regulation should not affect people's personal lives."

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

This jibes with Perry’s belief in limited federal involvement in state issues. In his book, Perry even said legalization of gay marriage should be left up to the states. Although Perry has backtracked on that statement, it doesn’t sit well with the socially conservative GOP.

Voters attending Perry’s town-hall meetings this weekend may find his calls for personal liberty and support of low taxes and low regulation appealing. Already, New Hampshire has no sales tax and no personal income tax. Like Texas, the state has performed fairly well during the recession, said University of New Hampshire business professor Ross Gittell.

"This is not the worst recession in New Hampshire, or the worst economic decline, since the Great Depression. We had that in the early '90s, where the decline was twice as deep as it was this time around," Gittell said. "So the economy's pretty resilient here, but then we bounce back. And we don't see that bounce back right now."

Perry, who has yet to release a detailed jobs plan, will likely field questions on how he could help New Hampshire’s economy. The governor’s campaign has also indicated he’ll go after his chief rival, Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, which may turn heads but runs the risk of alienating voters in the Granite State.

Romney leads Perry by more than 20 points in New Hampshire, according to recent polls. But Fowler said polls mean little in New Hampshire because of the state's open-primary system, which allows all voters, regardless of party affiliation, to participate.

"A big unknown is whether independent voters are actually going to show up and vote in the Republican primary or not," Fowler said. "And I don't think anybody knows."

Even if Perry doesn't end up winning the state's primary next year, Fowler added, campaigning in New Hampshire could still help. This state is where many candidates hammer out their message, she said, and based on some of his recent stumbles, Perry is still trying to figure his out.

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