MANCHESTER, N.H., 9:00 p.m. — The scene from the rally:
We’re inside a hangar-type building that is actually a large sports facility, called the Executive Health and Sports Center, that looks as though it can be retrofitted for a number of indoor sports. Tonight, though, it is the setting of what could be a task on The Apprentice. The task: Assemble a makeshift set for the Democratic National Convention in 24 hours. That’s basically what the Clinton camp did.
MANCHESTER, N.H., 8:42 p.m. — Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 may be down, but she is not out. Tonight, she and former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73 will appear at a massive rally to make one last case to New Hampshire voters, and we will be posting live from the rally.
A full half hour before the rally is supposed to begin, when we pulled off the highway, traffic was already backed up a mile here in Manchester. Think of the traffic heading to the Yale Bowl before The Game.
Why this might be a bad idea: the rally is being held at a facility right next to the Manchester airport. When we got to the actual site of the rally, a cop was asking each car, “Airport or Hillary?” About a third seemed to be heading to the airport. And all of them, if they are just dropping off a friend or family member and will be here to vote tomorrow, have one new reason not to vote for Hillary Clinton — the 30 minutes, hour, etc. they spent in traffic tonight because of her.
STRATHAM, N.H., 11:05 a.m. — Mitt Romney spoke at the local Timberland factory this morning, and guess what? He wants to become president to — wait for it — “bring change”!
In a 20-minute speech, Romney talked about “change” a total of 20 times, challenging Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 and Senator Barack Obama for “change” supremacy.
But Romney’s re-tooled stump speech did have a distinct difference from the “change”-mongering proffered by other candidates in recent days. He tied in his business experience and his status as a Washington outsider as the two traits that make him the right man for change.
HAMPTON, N.H., 11 a.m. — Fighting for her political life, Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 is on the attack against Barack Obama on the issue of “change.”
On Sunday, Clinton rolled out a new, aggressive stump speech, talking up the “difference between talk and action, between rhetoric and reality.” At a rally here Sunday night, she wasted no time driving the point home: in four minutes, she used the word “change” no fewer than 15 times.
Clinton never mentioned Obama by name, but her message was aimed squarely at him, and that much was lost on no one in attendance.
“In order to bring about the changes that are so essential for America’s future, you’ve got to have an understanding of the difference between hope for change and demanding change,” she told supporters.
The highlight of her speech was a new refrain — “That’s not change!” — that she shouted after highlighting a time when Obama did not push for change, like voting for the Patriot Act, voting to fund the war in Iraq, or giving top campaign posts to lobbyists.
Yet she never mentioned him by name. Still, the message was loud and clear. Signs reading “Ready for Change” were everywhere.
“If we’re going to be talking about change, then let’s talk about change,” Clinton said. “Let’s talk about who’s produced change, and let’s talk about who’s more likely to bring about change.”
If nothing else, she beat Obama on using the word “change” more often. In the beginning of her speech, she was averaging one “change” every 11 seconds.
SEABROOK, N.H., 2:28 am. — We’re down to one day before the polls open, and for the candidates, it is game time. A few musings from the trail today:
Chris Dodd’s former New Hampshire chair, Joe Keefe, has endorsed Senator Barack Obama, and he was the first speaker at the Obama rally in Manchester on Sunday morning. I wondered if anyone in the audience knew who Dodd was.
I didn’t have much time to dwell on that thought, however. As Keefe walked to the podium and the crowd applauded with polite enthusiasm, a 40-something woman in front of me turned to her neighbor and asked, “Is that Obama?”Mr. Keefe is a white man.
She wasn’t joking, either.
Can someone buy the candidates a wristwatch, please? Senator Hillary Clinton’s rally in Hampton, N.H., was scheduled for 5 p.m. Great, right? At about 5:15 p.m., an aide took the stage and said the senator would be there shortly. At 6 p.m., he came back on stage and promised she would be there in 15 minutes. At 6:45 p.m., nearly two hours late, she finally arrived. I already complained about Senator Obama being tardy for his own rally this morning in Manchester. Apparently an afternoon Obama rally was similarly behind schedule. And John Edwards was chastised for his lateness last month, too. Punctuality is important! Jeez! How can you be president if you can’t even show up within, say, an hour of the right time? You can’t even blame Daylight Savings Time for that! What would Undergraduate Career Services do with these people? Philip Jones would have a field day!
My strategy thus far for determining the precise location of a rally or town hall meeting or whatever here in New Hampshire has been to drive to the high school or college campus or wherever and then just look for the row of satellite trucks, police cars, protesters, etc. (or, failing that, Salon’s Walter Shapiro, who was also at the Obama rally this morning) and then head in that direction. So tonight, I headed to Phillips Exeter Academy to hear former Senator Mike Gravel give a talk, assuming I would be able to find the senator using the above strategy. I forgot that, to the American mainstream media, I am more newsworthy than Mike Gravel at this point. There was no commotion to be found, no media, no nothing.
Luckily, a security guard pointed me in the right direction. It was actually a very nice event — held in the Exeter library, it had the feel of a Master’s Tea. Except without refreshments.
Props to the New Haven media for putting some serious legwork into covering the primaries. First, the New Haven Independent sent a reporter to Iowa to Senator Christopher J. Dodd’s efforts to survive the Iowa caucus.Now, this week, News Channel 8 has been a regular presence here in New Hampshire. I spotted their truck at the debates Saturday night, and chief political correspondent Mark Davis reported live (perhaps the only reporter to do so?) from Hillary Clinton’s rally in Hampton, N.H., on Sunday night. Paparazzi photos below, of course.
Another pseudo-celebrity sighting on Sunday: Dana Milbank ’90 of The Washington Post. I think.
As the News’s fancy digital camera dangled from my neck at the Clinton rally, someone in the press pool approached me and asked if I could introduce her to a certain Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer whom she admired. I knew him from my work at the White House, right? No, I said. You see, as fancy as my camera may look and no matter how many press credentials I’m wearing simultaneously, I do not work at the White House. Until this morning, I did not even know how to turn the flash on my camera on and off.
WASHINGTON, 8:35 p.m. — A new CNN-WMUR poll released this evening shows Senator Barack Obama with a commanding 10-point lead over Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 among likely Democratic primary voters two days before Granite State voters cast their ballots.
The poll, conducted Saturday and today, suggests Obama may be capitalizing on the momentum from his victory in Thursday’s Iowa caucus, in which he defeated the third-place Clinton by eight points. A similar CNN-WMUR tracking poll released yesterday showed Obama and Clinton knotted at 33 percent a piece, with former Senator John Edwards in third, at 20 percent. Today’s poll places Obama at 39 percent, Clinton at 29 percent and Edwards at 16 percent.
SEABROOK, N.H., 7:28 a.m. — “The troops have spoken, and Ron Paul is their choice as their next commander-in-chief,” says an advertisement for the Texas congressman that just ran on the morning show of the local ABC television affiliate here. Of course, the ad doesn’t give any evidence, or anything. But we’ll trust you, Mr. Paul.
The same commercial break also included spots for Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 and former Senator John Edwards.
BOSTON, Mass., 4:05 a.m. — 1) Maybe it’s time to stop trying to make these debates hip and tech-savvy. What did Facebook’s “sponsorship” add to the debate other than some pretty lame polls? Couldn’t they have at least done something fun to add the “Facebook touch” on the dry proceedings? Maybe they could have let each candidate write in a status? (“Bill Richardson is wondering what he is doing here.”)
2) I really liked the banter between Hil and Obama throughout the night. Except when Obama said “You are likable enough” to Hilary, I was confused. Was this earnest? Was it an underhanded insult? Was it one of those things you say without really knowing what it means but just because it sort of sounds like the right thing to say in the moment? Was I thinking about the whole thing too much?
3) I don’t think I will be forgetting anytime soon how many years of experience Hillary Clinton has since she managed to mention her THIRTY-FIVE years of experience about thirty-five times.
4) My favorite question was, “What is something you said in a previous debate that you wish you hadn’t said?” Seriously?! Did he expect anyone to actually answer that?! These are politicians! It’s like asking someone on a first date, “So, how did you mess up your past relationships?”
5) There was this wonderful moment when they all started talking at once in response to one of the five thousand questions about “change” when Edwards cracked a smile and – just for a second – I felt like maybe, just maybe, he was realizing just how strange and ridiculous these debates are. Or maybe he was just smiling. It was hard to tell.
MANCHESTER, N.H., 9:34 p.m. — The minute-by-minute speaks for itself:
9:26 p.m. | “We’re all advocating for change,” Clinton asserts. But it’s easier said than done, she says, and points to her record. Change, she says, “is a result of very hard work, bringing people together, stating very clearly what your goals are, what your principles are, and then achieving them.”
9:27 p.m. | Oh no she didn’t! Clinton just called Obama a flip-flopper, particularly on healthcare. “I think that’s relevant,” she said. “I think we’re looking for a president we can count on.” Didn’t someone — perhaps a certain Republican? — make that same argument against John Kerry in 2004?
9:32 p.m. | Oh no he didn’t! Bloodbath! Edwards just attacked Clinton for attacking Obama, lamenting that people who support change — like him and Obama — always get beaten up. “That’s not the kind of discussion we should be having,” he said, adding that whenever anyone pushes for change, “the forces of status quo are going to attack.” That’s a not-too-subtle dig at Clinton.
9:34 p.m. | It gets worse! Forget any attempt to be subtle. Edwards says what everyone in the filing center is thinking. “I didn’t see these kind of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead,” he said.
Clinton can’t let that go. “Wait a minute now, I want to respond to this,” she said. “Making change is not about what you believe, it’s not about a speech you make, it’s about working hard.”
9:36 p.m. | Richardson chimes in, and sets the room afire with laughter. “I’ve been in hostage negotiations a lot more civil then this,” he quipped. “Let’s stay positive,” he implores. He notes, for the record, however: “I love change.”
MANCHESTER, N.H., 6:23 p.m. — As if it weren’t obvious already, the New Hampshire primary is going to come down to the wire.
A new poll released minutes ago by CNN and WMUR, a Manchester television station, places Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton LAW’73 in a statistical tie among likely voters in this state, with each garnering 33 percent of the vote.
The poll was conducted Friday and today following Obama’s decisive win Thursday in the Iowa caucus. On the Republican side, the poll found Senator John McCain leading the pack with 33 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 27 percent, Rudy Giuliani at 14 percent and Mike Huckabee at 11 percent.
NORMAN, Oklahoma, 6:20 p.m. — For assistant professor in Political Science Ange-Marie Hancock, Barack Obama’s resounding win over third-place Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in Iowa last night is big news — it is a historical moment, she says — but it hasn’t made her decision as a voter any easier.
“Honestly, right now I am square in the middle between Obama and Clinton,” she says with a laugh during a phone interview.
NORMAN, Oklahoma, 10:45 a.m. — I didn’t think I would have a reading assignment while on winter break. Then again, I also hadn’t planned on interviewing Ted Marmor.
I wanted the School of Management and political science professor’s opinion on the presidential candidates’ positions on healthcare. Marmor, after all, has testified before Congress on healthcare reform, served on President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on the National Agenda and published reams of articles and books on the subject. If anyone is an expert, he is. But first I had to acquaint myself.
In ‘The Politics of U.S. Health System Reform,’ Marmor traces the history of the impact of politics on healthcare reform, calling it a story of “long-term aspiration and deep frustration.” The main obstacle to reform Marmor emphasizes is the limit of political feasibility: the harsh resistance of Republicans and the lack of commitment of Democrats.
Having earned my phone interview, Marmor and I spoke early on the Friday morning following the Iowa caucus elections. Are any of the three leading Democratic candidates capable of causing the necessary ideological shift in Washington to substantially reform the U.S. health system?
“All three of them — Obama and Edwards even more than Clinton,” Marmor says. “Obama and Edwards have a more powerful rhetorical voice on behalf of those people in trouble in America. [Hillary] is a more manipulative, less appealing moral leader.”