Monday, January 7, 2008

Primary Fever, Catch It

Headed up to the Granite State yesterday to check out the scene two days before the New Hampshire Primary. As they mocked on The Simpsons last night when Springfield held the first-in-the-nation primary, New Hampshire was "overrun with candidates, newshounds, spin doctors, hacks, flacks, Russerts, Blitzers, and even the occasional voter."

We went first to the Hillary Clinton rally at Nashua North High School. The doors were scheduled to open at noon. We got there at 11:15 and had to park about a mile away because so many people were there already. The doors didn't open until after noon and the line was gigantic. So many people showed up that an overflow room was necessary. That seems to be pretty common up in New Hampshire in the last few days of the campaigns. Fire marshals have had their hands full. It's a good sign that voters are energized--at least on the Democratic side.

It's somewhat hard to tell if there's a strict correlation between crowd sizes in cities such as Nashua and Salem along the Massachusetts border and candidate support among New Hampshire residents since quite a few interlopers such as me drive up from the Boston area. Looking around at the cars parked at the Clinton rally, there were quite a few out-of-state plates. Probably no more than two-thirds (and I think it was closer to one-half) of cars had "Live Free or Die" on the plates. And as is the case at many rallies, there seemed to be two reporters and cameramen for every voter. (That's the head of Chris Matthews in front of me in one of the Hillary pics.)

The Hillary crowd was definitely older than the Obama crowd that showed up in Boston last month. (Obama was in the same gym the day before and The Boston Globe reports he drew a slightly larger crowd.) Seems to be continuing the demographic trends in Iowa. Hillary showed up around 1, spoke for about 15 minutes and then started taking questions from the audience. Hillary started turning up the rhetoric on Obama: "If you gave a speech, and a very good speech, against the war in Iraq in 2002, and then by 2004 you're saying you're not sure how you would have voted, and by 2005, 2006, 2007 you vote for $300 billion for the war you said you were against, that's not change. If you give a speech saying you're going to vote against the Patriot Act, and you don't, that's not change."

A lot of people had print-outs of candidate schedules yesterday, criss-crossing the state. is a good site with a listing of candidate appearances. The Boston Globe, too. If you're going to a Hillary or Obama rally, it's pretty clear you've got to get there really early, probably 90 minutes before the door opens. So bundle up and bring some reading material. And you better not have a problem with crowds.

You won't be guaranteed to see the big names, but it can be a lot more fun to just wander down Elm Street in Manchester and hang around the Radisson and Merrimack Restaurant to get a flavor for the campaign in the final days. There will be plenty of supporters carrying signs and chanting. You'll inevitably run into many well-known media people. Yesterday, we ran into ABC's Charles Gibson doing a segment walking down Main Street (at least until some Ron Paul supporters tried to get behind the shot and disrupt it). Plus, you might get a glimpse of some of the candidates (probably more of the second-tier candidates) dropping by the radio stations set up in the Radisson and Merrimack and the C-SPAN studios, right in the Radisson.

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