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Money Isn't Everything

In the magazine's last issue, I wrote about Mitt Romney's success in wearing down New Hampshire over the past five years with his relentless personal attention and his equally relentless check-writing to Republican candidates at all levels, all the way down to sheriff and district attorney. I described a luncheon at a Concord law firm last September to which he invited all of the Republican candidates for state Senate -- and where he proceeded to hand out $1,000 checks to everyone in attendance.

If that anecdote left the impression that New Hampshire politicians can be bought, this week offered some evidence to the contrary. Two of the candidates to collect the $1,000 checks from Romney announced they were endorsing other candidates in the primary -- one, Andy Sanborn, came out for Ron Paul, and another, Nancy Stiles, came out for Jon Huntsman. By my count, there is only one other Republican in the state Senate to have endorsed someone other than Romney, another Paul supporter.

In announcing her endorsement, Stiles called Huntsman a "man of integrity and principle." I asked her today if that should be taken as an indirect rebuke of the man she accepted the $1,000 contribution from, whom many conservatives find lacking in the principle department. Not at all, Stiles said. She simply prefers Huntsman, mainly for his international experience. "It's not my custom to always go with the most popular person," said Stiles. "People say he's only got two percent of the vote and has no chance of winning, but that's why people come to New Hampshire, where everyone has a chance to explain who they are."

I asked her whether she thought Romney would take it amiss at all that he had gone with his longtime rival rather than with the person who'd given her campaign a big check. "No," she said. "He did that because of who I am, not because of what they want out of me."

Then again, maybe Stiles passed over Romney for Huntsman because she knew he had three daughters with a very dry sense of humor.