WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Politicians try to crack New Hampshire with Politics and Eggs
As originally appearing in The Washington Examiner


When Sen. Lindsey Graham recently went on his introductory swing through New Hampshire as a potential presidential candidate, one of his first stops was as a keynote speaker at the Politics and Eggs breakfast.

It was Graham’s debut appearance, and he was puzzled by the event’s signature custom: Attendees are each given a wooden egg, which they ask the speaker to sign.

“Who thought of this?” Graham asked. “A wooden egg salesman?”

The breakfast, a well-loved tradition in the first-in-the-nation primary state, has become a rite of passage for presidential candidates and often one of the first stops in the Granite State. This month, at least six presidential hopefuls will stand behind the Politics and Eggs podium, including Graham and Gov. Rick Perry, who spoke Thursday, his second time as a speaker.

“Now, how often do you all do Politics and Eggs?” Perry asked as he sat down at his table. Fred Kocher, who helped found Politics and Eggs, told him it depends on the candidates. “Well, you shouldn’t have any problem getting candidates in here, or wannabes, as I refer to us now.”

The event, a collaboration between the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College and the New England Council, has been an institution since 1996, when Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y., kicked off the series as the first speaker.

Carl Cameron, now of Fox News, was at the time working for the New Hampshire television station WMUR, and helped hatch the idea with Kocher.

“It’s the thing that you do first,” said Neil Levesque, executive director of the institute. “If you’re coming to New Hampshire, it’s a good business group. And the staffers who are setting up these schedules want a good event that’s going to get some earned media and that has New Hampshire flavor to it.”

In off years, the events happen infrequently, and can include journalists — but as the presidential election cycle ramps up, so too does Politics and Eggs, and the speakers are mostly presidential candidates.

The event has become so ingrained in the New Hampshire political culture that the logo on the eggs, that of the White House hatching from a broken eggshell, is now trademarked. The Institute of Politics has amassed more than one hundred eggs, all signed by the speakers.

Of the politicians who have participated, Levesque said Sen. John McCain, who won New Hampshire in 2000 and 2008, was the most frequent guest. Donald Trump, who spoke last year and has said he might run for president, drew the biggest crowd.

“Four years ago when Rick Perry did it, he had just had back surgery,” Levesque said. “I think it was a tough speech for him.”

As for the breakfast?

“Well, I feel better already knowing it’s free,” Graham joked during his speech. “Just remember, you get what you pay for.”

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