Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Catching the Candidates in New Hampshire

The Boston Globe reported this past weekend that New Hampshire has dropped a plan to draw tourists to experience the state's first-in-the-nation primary. The proposed tourism campaign was scrapped due to concerns that it would draw criticism that New Hampshire protects its status as the country's first primary because of the money it brings into the state rather than the political value it brings in choosing the next president.

Taking a trip to New Hampshire in the lead-up to the primary is always entertaining for political junkies such as myself. I've been caught in a crush of 30 cameramen following Pat Buchanan in 1996, listened to President Clinton in a high school auditorium in 1996, watched a PETA member in a pig outfit protest Steve Forbes in 2000, and seen candidates trying their hand at pancake flipping at a breakfast sponsored by Bisquick.

With seemingly more candidates than voters, the 2008 primary campaign promises to be more entertaining than ever. The campaign is already in full swing, so anyone interested in making a trip should get a fantastic chance to see the candidates up close and personal.

In addition to candidates, you'll run into plenty of famous faces from the media. In fact, there's a pretty good chance that, if you show up in New Hampshire between now and the primary, someone's going to stick a microphone in your face to get your opinion. I was interviewed by the French newspaper Le Monde at a John Kerry rally in 2004. (That Le Monde was there probably didn't help with the Francophile image that was pinned on Kerry.)

If you're thinking about visiting New Hampshire to see democracy in action, the best time to go is the week leading up to the primary as the candidates are criss-crossing the state almost every day. You can choose to travel across the state as well, but you can usually see a number of candidates in one day just by basing yourself in one of the state's larger cities such as Nashua, Portsmouth, or Manchester. Those cities are easy to reach from Boston, just an hour to an hour-and-a-half drive away.

Manchester is the state's largest city, home to the state's biggest TV station and airport, and a good place to base yourself. The city's Merrimack Restaurant is a popular stop for candidates and the media. Nearby, the Radisson Hotel has hosted C-Span's studios and candidate events in past years. The Bedford Inn has hosted CBS broadcasts and many media members as well.

To plot out your itinerary, check out candidate web sites to see their campaign schedules. Another good resource is www.nhprimary.com, which has a full listing of expected candidate appearances.

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