With his political skills, Merrill was able to package, market a governing philosophy in three words

Former Gov. Steve Merrill had a way about him that would make people around him comfortable, even if they disagreed with what he was saying. >> Download the FREE WMUR appMerrill, who died on Saturday at the age of 74, had the political skills to convey his conservative approach to governing succinctly – in three words, in fact: “New Hampshire Advantage.”The genesis of what became known as the New Hampshire Advantage was certainly not new to Merrill. It had been a tradition in the Granite State, especially among Republicans, for decades preceding him.It was brought to the forefront in the 1970s by former Gov. Meldrim “Ax the Tax” Thomson, Jr. and carried on by former Gov. John H. Sununu and then former Gov. Judd Gregg, who went on to serve three terms in the U.S. Senate.It’s a phrase that encapsulates a way of thinking and governing that has been carried on by Republicans since – even to current Gov. Chris Sununu.“Steve Merrill was a master packager,” said Patrick Griffin, a longtime Granite State Republican strategic communications consultant who has handled messaging for dozens of GOP campaigns, including many in the Granite State.“He was one of those guys who could give you the movie trailer in five words. He could succinctly take a metaphor and turn it into something that means something and something that stuck emotionally.”Griffin said that Merrill knew that “everyone is looking for an advantage. It is something that we all want for ourselves and our children and our families. He knew it was all about aspiration.“If people could aspire to something, they would be willing to work for it,” Griffin said. “And the New Hampshire advantage was an invitation for people to be successful in New Hampshire. It was an economic development brand for New Hampshire – an invitation for people to come here and stay here. I was a way to say that our way was a better way.”The phrase fit Merrill because it was optimistic, as he was.“Steve Merrill walked around with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face and made people laugh, but he had a very strong conservative viewpoint,” said Gregg, who was Merrill’s predecessor in the State House corner office. “But Steve didn’t poke people in the eye with it,” Gregg said. “He worked with both sides and had as many friends on the Democratic side as he had on the Republican side. And as a result he was very, very successful in making New Hampshire a better place to live.“The New Hampshire Advantage has become a very succinct way of talking about the special attributes of the state and the fact that we approach policies, the environment and life in a unique way.“And in his characteristic way, he was able to summarize that and communicate it,” Gregg said. “And we have all taken the term on. I used in many times myself in the Senate.”“It’s not by luck we as a state have this advantage.”When Gregg decided to run for the Senate after two terms as governor, Merrill, who had previously been the state’s attorney general, entered the race, won a three-way Republican primary and faced former state Rep. Arnie Arnesen in the general election.Arnesen had won a surprising victory over two well-known competitors in her own Democratic Party primary, and unlike former those competitors – former U.S. Rep. Norm D’Amours and former Commissioner of Health and Human Services Ned Helms – she was, and she remains today, an advocate for a state income tax as a way of lowering property taxes.In those days, New Hampshire state government’s investment in education was a small fraction of what it is today.She told WMUR on Sunday that despite her rejection of the politics of the “no-broad-based-tax pledge” and despite holding views opposed to those of Merrill and the GOP on fiscal issues, she liked and admired him.Arnesen, a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show host, wrote on Facebook:“I spent hours with Steve fighting ‘mano-a- mano’ for the governorship in 1992. He was smart, charming and politically savvy (My luck, to have been handed a very talented competitor).”She pointed out that while Merrill was known as a conservative, in her view, he had some moderate tendencies.Faced with a state budget deficit, Merrill convened a panel of experts that proposed the Business Enterprise Tax, which has since been in effect as a tax on compensation paid, interest paid and dividends paid by a business.Arnesen noted that Merrill appointed his friend and law partner, Democrat John Broderick, as an associate justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1995. Broderick was elevated to chief justice by another Republican governor, Craig Benson, in 2004.Arnesen noted that Merrill signed an executive order celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “and was the first governor to put money to the public kindergarten.”“Sounds almost like the Democratic governors we have elected ever since. I am stunned and saddened by his death — 74 is far too young.”In an interview Sunday, Arnesen told WMUR, “I had love-hate relationship with him and I admired his skill set. He had lots of political skills.”Arnesen, as might be expected however, had a much different view of the New Hampshire Advantage.She recalled that in the early and mid-1990s, with the state and nation in a recession, “the federal government bailed us out for five years with ‘Mediscam’ money.” The state was among several that used a loophole to apply federal Medicaid money to its overall budget.“He was handed the worst time economically but he received the greatest assistance from the federal government. Without that, we wouldn’t have had a New Hampshire Advantage. We would have had a New Hampshire cave-in.”“That’s why Steve was so good,” Arnesen said. “He was a great marketer.”

Former Gov. Steve Merrill had a way about him that would make people around him comfortable, even if they disagreed with what he was saying.

>> Download the FREE WMUR app

Merrill, who died on Saturday at the age of 74, had the political skills to convey his conservative approach to governing succinctly – in three words, in fact: “New Hampshire Advantage.”

The genesis of what became known as the New Hampshire Advantage was certainly not new to Merrill. It had been a tradition in the Granite State, especially among Republicans, for decades preceding him.

It was brought to the forefront in the 1970s by former Gov. Meldrim “Ax the Tax” Thomson, Jr. and carried on by former Gov. John H. Sununu and then former Gov. Judd Gregg, who went on to serve three terms in the U.S. Senate.

It’s a phrase that encapsulates a way of thinking and governing that has been carried on by Republicans since – even to current Gov. Chris Sununu.

“Steve Merrill was a master packager,” said Patrick Griffin, a longtime Granite State Republican strategic communications consultant who has handled messaging for dozens of GOP campaigns, including many in the Granite State.

“He was one of those guys who could give you the movie trailer in five words. He could succinctly take a metaphor and turn it into something that means something and something that stuck emotionally.”

Griffin said that Merrill knew that “everyone is looking for an advantage. It is something that we all want for ourselves and our children and our families. He knew it was all about aspiration.

“If people could aspire to something, they would be willing to work for it,” Griffin said. “And the New Hampshire advantage was an invitation for people to be successful in New Hampshire. It was an economic development brand for New Hampshire – an invitation for people to come here and stay here. I was a way to say that our way was a better way.”

The phrase fit Merrill because it was optimistic, as he was.

“Steve Merrill walked around with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face and made people laugh, but he had a very strong conservative viewpoint,” said Gregg, who was Merrill’s predecessor in the State House corner office.

“But Steve didn’t poke people in the eye with it,” Gregg said. “He worked with both sides and had as many friends on the Democratic side as he had on the Republican side. And as a result he was very, very successful in making New Hampshire a better place to live.

“The New Hampshire Advantage has become a very succinct way of talking about the special attributes of the state and the fact that we approach policies, the environment and life in a unique way.

“And in his characteristic way, he was able to summarize that and communicate it,” Gregg said. “And we have all taken the term on. I used in many times myself in the Senate.”

“It’s not by luck we as a state have this advantage.”

When Gregg decided to run for the Senate after two terms as governor, Merrill, who had previously been the state’s attorney general, entered the race, won a three-way Republican primary and faced former state Rep. Arnie Arnesen in the general election.

Arnesen had won a surprising victory over two well-known competitors in her own Democratic Party primary, and unlike former those competitors – former U.S. Rep. Norm D’Amours and former Commissioner of Health and Human Services Ned Helms – she was, and she remains today, an advocate for a state income tax as a way of lowering property taxes.

In those days, New Hampshire state government’s investment in education was a small fraction of what it is today.

She told WMUR on Sunday that despite her rejection of the politics of the “no-broad-based-tax pledge” and despite holding views opposed to those of Merrill and the GOP on fiscal issues, she liked and admired him.

Arnesen, a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show host, wrote on Facebook:

“I spent hours with Steve fighting ‘mano-a- mano’ for the governorship in 1992. He was smart, charming and politically savvy (My luck, to have been handed a very talented competitor).”

She pointed out that while Merrill was known as a conservative, in her view, he had some moderate tendencies.

Faced with a state budget deficit, Merrill convened a panel of experts that proposed the Business Enterprise Tax, which has since been in effect as a tax on compensation paid, interest paid and dividends paid by a business.

Arnesen noted that Merrill appointed his friend and law partner, Democrat John Broderick, as an associate justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1995. Broderick was elevated to chief justice by another Republican governor, Craig Benson, in 2004.

Arnesen noted that Merrill signed an executive order celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “and was the first governor to put money to the public kindergarten.”

“Sounds almost like the Democratic governors we have elected ever since. I am stunned and saddened by his death — 74 is far too young.”

In an interview Sunday, Arnesen told WMUR, “I had love-hate relationship with him and I admired his skill set. He had lots of political skills.”

Arnesen, as might be expected however, had a much different view of the New Hampshire Advantage.

She recalled that in the early and mid-1990s, with the state and nation in a recession, “the federal government bailed us out for five years with ‘Mediscam’ money.” The state was among several that used a loophole to apply federal Medicaid money to its overall budget.

“He was handed the worst time economically but he received the greatest assistance from the federal government. Without that, we wouldn’t have had a New Hampshire Advantage. We would have had a New Hampshire cave-in.”

“That’s why Steve was so good,” Arnesen said. “He was a great marketer.”

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