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Sheriff Joe Arpaio for President?

Controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio will head to New Hampshire Sunday to headline the Nashua Republican City Committee lunch, fueling speculation that he hopes to run for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2012, the CNN reported today. Arpaio’s spokesman didn’t exactly shoot down the idea: “People just don’t go to New Hampshire if they are not interested in these things,” his spokesman told CNN, although he said Arpaio was “not going back to test the waters.”

Arpaio, who was first elected Maricopa County sheriff in 1993, seems to think he has substantial political clout, the Huffington Post reported:

Earlier this year, in squashing speculation that he might run for Governor in the Grand Canyon State, the Arizona sheriff said, “I don’t want to be egotistical, but I could be the governor if I ran… My polls are very high. I got the money. I got the polls. I got the support.” And, Arpaio recently said that he considers his endorsement cred to be stronger than that of home state GOP Sen. John McCain.

Last month, the Arizona sheriff suggested President Obama consult his advice on the issue of illegal immigration.

If he were a serious candidate, he would have some hurdles. For one, Arpaio was sued last week by the Justice Department for refusing to cooperate with a probe into alleged civil rights violations within his department. He also has a reputation of being extremely tough on illegal immigration — a reason for his popularity among some, but possibly a liability overall. Arpaio has run raids to track down illegal immigrants, forced inmates into tents when jails were full and made prisoners wear pink underwear as a humiliation tactic.

A new 527 group was created this week to defend Arpaio’s reputation, Talking Points Memo reported. Called “Defend Sheriff Joe,” the group said in its filing it aims to “defend Sheriff Joe’s reputation against the Obama administration’s effort to stop enforcement of our immigration laws and to challenge elected officials so that more representatives are elected who are willing to enforce our laws and support the police on the front lines.”

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