John McCain’s bond with New Hampshire: “We liked him so much”

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As the nation mourns the loss of Sen. John McCain, the Granite State knows it held a very special place in the Arizona Republican’s heart.

McCain, who died Saturday, is said to have called New Hampshire his second favorite state.

He spent a lot of time there when he ran for president,winning the state’s first-in-the-nation primary twice.

In 2000, McCain held more than 100 town halls in New Hampshire, including one Jesse’s Steakhouse in Hanover.

“He was very nice. He was welcoming,” said Jennifer Packard,of Blue Sky Restaurant Group, thew owners of Jesse’s Steakhouse. “He answered a lot of questions afterwards, after the fact, from some of his constituents and people who were here and just had questions.”

McCain had a reputation for his willingness to answer any question. He’d invite voters and reporters on his campaign bus, the “Straight Talk Express,” as he traveled through the state.

“His strategy was to go to as many town halls, meet as many voters, talk about policy, get to know people, allow them to get to know him, and that was a strategy that worked,” said Joseph Bafumi, associate professor of government at Dartmouth College. “Sometimes John McCain was called the third senator from New Hampshire because we liked him so much.”

In 2000, McCain beat George W. Bush in New Hampshire by 18 points. But a loss in South Carolina ended his presidential run that year.

McCain won the New Hampshire primary again in 2008, beating Mitt Romney, former governor of neighboring Massachusetts. At the time, McCain’s campaign had run out of money and had appeared to be all but over.

“They just put John McCain in front of groups of voters in New Hampshire and allowed him to do what he does best — which is to connect with people and talk about policy and show his personality,” said Bafumi.

After his presidential aspirations ended with his loss Barack Obama, other candidates would utilize McCain’s popularity in the Granite State, including Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney.

“People that come to New Hampshire to try and win electoral victory know that John McCain is a big deal, that we like him here. So they try and get his endorsement and try to get him to visit and campaign alongside of them,” said Bafumi. “No one will replace John McCain perfectly.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu called McCain an “honorary Granite Stater” after his passing.

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