Herman Cain may have picked a powerful enemy in New Hampshire on Thursday, skipping a scheduled interview with the Union Leader newspaper during a brief visit to the state.
The cancellation came just days after Cain struggled mightily with a question about Libya during a videotaped interview with reporters and editors from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Many Republicans in the first-in-the-nation primary state, who expect multiple face-to-face interactions with the presidential candidates, were already unhappy that Cain has been spending considerable time in other states without early primaries.
Cain was attempting to make good today on a number of fronts. He started Thursday with a trip to the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office.
Unlike most of the other major GOP hopefuls, he had filed his declaration of candidacy by mail and not in person. More than two weeks after the filing period closed, he showed up and signed a notice-of-elections poster that already bore many of his rivals’ signatures.
From there, he was supposed to head to Manchester for a scheduled meeting with the publisher of the Union Leader, its editorial editor and a reporter. According to Drew Cline, the editorial editor, the meeting with Cain was arranged last week, and confirmed again days ago.
After the Journal Sentinel interview was released, Cain’s campaign contacted the Union Leader to say they would not allow C-SPAN cameras to be present for the session, as they had been for meetings with other candidates.
The campaign again contacted the paper to say that rather than the hourlong interview they had agreed to, Cain would be available for only 20 minutes. Cline said they told Cain’s campaign it was “not worth our time to do it for 20 minutes.” The campaign promised to get back to them, but never did.
“We thought they were coming. I don’t know what happened,” Cline said, chalking it up to a “communications failure on their end.”
Cain instead arrived early for an interview with WMUR, the state’s primary television outlet. Portions of the interview will run on the station’s 6 p.m. newscast and also on a special broadcast closer to the Jan. 10 primary.
According to reports, Cain also showed up more than an hour late for his only public event of the day, a rally at a Nashua hotel.
The Union Leader has unique status in New Hampshire every four years. Its endorsement in the presidential primary is a coveted one, and can prove significant. In 2008, the paper backed John McCain and ran a number of front-page editorials alternately praising the Arizona senator and blasting Mitt Romney, who had been an early front-runner.
The Union Leader did interview Cain earlier this year, Cline said, but it was “more of a get-to-know-you kind of thing.”
“It’s not unusual at all that we do multiple sit-downs with a presidential candidate during a primary cycle,” Cline said. “From the campaign’s standpoint, if you’ve got a media outlet that reaches statewide, why wouldn’t you want to come in?”
Cain’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment by the time of posting. But Cain reportedly put the blame on the newspaper.
“You aren’t gonna believe it but they canceled,” he told reporters.
The Union Leader’s John DiStaso wrote Thursday afternoon that a Cain spokesman left a message for him saying he hoped they would be able to reschedule.
Union Leader publisher Joe McQuaid replied that he “was not concerned” about the snub.
“I don’t think he’s going anywhere from here at this point, anyway,” he said.