With New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary less than a week away, the publisher of the state’s largest paper, the Union Leader, told NPR’s Robert Siegel his assessment of how the Republican presidential race has played out thus far in a single word: “Extraordinary.”
And the reason he describes the GOP campaign that way boils down to Donald Trump, who, despite coming in second in the Iowa caucuses this week, enjoys a double-digit advantage in most New Hampshire polls.
“It’s extraordinary, because of the Trump factor and the other candidates trying to vie against Trump,” said Joe McQuaid, who has worked at the Union Leader for a half century.
“Trump has overturned the table,” he added.
McQuaid’s dealings with the billionaire businessman have been toxic. In an editorial in December, McQuaid compared Trump to the bully “Biff” from the movie Back to the Future.
New Hampshire Public Radio’s Josh Rogers last month described the feud this way:
“The hostility is mutual, especially since the paper endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Trump’s been a regular target in the paper’s editorial pages and branded a bully by publisher Joe McQuaid. Trump has called McQuaid a ‘lowlife’ and made his paper stump speech fodder during campaign stops in the state.
” ‘The famous paper, right? You know, your little paper, the Union Leader. It’s really a dishonest paper, it’s terrible. It’s a rag,’ Trump said at a recent rally in New Hampshire.”
“It’s interesting,” McQuaid told NPR. “I expected after the Christie endorsement to be flamed on the Twitterverse by Trump, but it wasn’t until I called him out in a front-page editorial that it made a difference to him.”
McQuaid also lamented the outsize impact money has had on the New Hampshire primary.
“There is still the smallest of chances that a long-shot candidate, like McCain in 2008, when he was down-and-out, can come set up camp in New Hampshire and try his case before the people,” McQuaid said. “But it is more and more being drowned out by TV and Internet commercials. In Trump’s case, by the free media that the media give Trump and then express surprise at how well Trump does in the polls. It’s nonstop.”
McQuaid said he hopes to be “pleasantly surprised” and see another candidate come in “second to Trump” Tuesday in New Hampshire. He names Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as possible challengers.
“One of those guys,” McQuaid said, “I hope, will finish strong enough to carry the fight on, and beat Trump down South.”