WINDHAM — The town lost out yesterday on a marquee New Hampshire primary showdown between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman Jr.
Former U.S. House speaker Gingrich and former Utah Gov. Huntsman appeared to have agreed late last week on a man-to-man debate at Windham High School, hosted by the Southern New Hampshire 9.12 group.
But plans to hold it in Windham next Monday unraveled, through no fault of the local organizers, and the event was swept away.
"It's a little embarrassing," Ken Eyring of Southern New Hampshire 9.12 said. "We had geared up to make this a presidential quality event."
Even as Eyring was issuing a press release yesterday morning that promoted the debate, the campaigns were saying details still were being worked out for a different location in another community.
Eyring sounded a little like Travis Blais over the summer when Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann — as hot then as Gingrich and Huntsman are now — backed out of a Windham Republican town committee event.
Blais, chairman of the town GOP, found a replacement and announced former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was on his way.
Then Pawlenty quit the race.
"It's hard to take a presidential campaign seriously until it has canceled on Windham," Blais quipped yesterday.
Eyring had the school principal, the police chief and the fire chief all working on arrangements for the Huntsman-Gingrich debate.
"This is very frustrating," he said.
His disappointment was with the Huntsman campaign, rather than the Gingrich campaign, because he said it was the Huntsman campaign that had second thoughts about the location.
Eyring had personally spoken to Conyers Davis, a top Huntsman campaign aide. He said Davis had assured him Huntsman wanted to do the debate in Windham.
"His voice was saying, in a very excited way, we absolutely, positively, are coming," Eyring said.
He shared an email from Davis.
"We are looking forward to the debate on Dec 12 and will be sure to keep the governor's schedule clear from 6 p.m. onwards," Davis wrote. "I look forward to working with you and your team on this event. With that in mind please do not hesitate to call or email if you need anything from the Huntsman campaign."
The campaigns weren't commenting officially, but those familiar with the arrangements said TV considerations were a factor.
While losing out on the debate, Windham was expected to land a Town Hall-style meeting with Gingrich, whose campaign staff was planning a forum with Southern New Hampshire 9.12 for Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the high school.
Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, said yesterday Gingrich has reconfirmed his commitment to come to Windham, even if Huntsman chooses not to appear.
Reserved seating is available by emailing event@SouthernNH912.com; include your name, phone number and the number of seats you wish to reserve.
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.