CONCORD, N.H., 7:15 p.m. — Secretary of State Bill Gardner is known as the man who saved New Hampshire’s status as the first primary state in the nation.
But as is clear today, he did not only save any Hampshire presidential primary; he saved what may go down in history as the state’s most important primary ever.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The News, here’s what Gardner said: “There’s a high level of the spirit of democracy, whether it’s in Portsmouth, Manchester, or here in Concord — the rallies, the crowds. We have something in New Orleans called Mardi Gras, and it’s something of that kind of an atmosphere: a very joyful one.”
“A lot of young people have been part of it this time. I noticed them at the polling place, coming in, voting and being part of it,” he added. “It’s a really nice feeling when you witness that.”
HENNIKER, N.H., 1 p.m. — For the people of this small town of Henniker, politics is more than something for pundits and politicians. Active participants in this microcosm of American democracy stand outside the local schoolhouse urging passers-by to vote on this beautiful primary day.
“This is the way politics should be,” said Cathy Calob, the Edwards supporter. “It really gives us hope that (the) candidates will listen and represent us. My daughter’s in 8th grade, and even she’s getting involved.”
GERMANTOWN, Tenn., 11:13 a.m. — Hillary Clinton is struggling to lock in the votes of a demographic that American may have once thought was a given — women, especially the younger ones.
CNN reported this morning that in their latest New Hampshire polls, Clinton trails Barack Obama by two percentage points among women in the state.
Why is Clinton losing her female following? Turns out it’s another generation gap. Younger women, who have not personally experienced discrimination because of their sex, don’t see the importance and urgency of electing a women president this time around, CNN reports. They’re convinced if it doesn’t happen this time, then it will in four years, or even eight.
And some older women are simply turned off by the idea of a woman in such a “nontraditional” role. Instead, they see promise in Obama’s relationship-oriented, coalition-building message, rather than Clinton’s experience and assertiveness. While some women do admire her for her strength, more want to see a more spontaneous, candid, emotional Clinton.
So how will Hillary’s aggressiveness be viewed among New Hampshire’s women? We’ll see in about nine hours.
The comedian Larry David, left, with Arianna Huffington, right, at Senator Barack Obama’s rally at Dartmouth College on Tuesday morning.
HANOVER, N.H., 10:08 a.m. — During Senator Barack Obama’s speech to students this morning, a student in the middle of the crowd suddenly collapsed, bringing the excited rally to a startling halt.
Obama noticed immediately and stopped his speech while paramedics tended to the student. The rally was delayed for 20 minutes until the student was carried out of the gymnasium here.
Moments later, the comedian Larry David — who is stumping in New Hampshire for Obama — emerged from the back of the room and pushed up to the crowd. “Sinatra used to have that effect on people!” he yelled.
SEABROOK, N.H., 5:19 a.m. — After months of campaigning and millions of dollars spent on television ads, primary day is finally here. And boy, is it a beauty.
Temperatures in Manchester are supposed to reach 60 degrees today, which should encourage turnout. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting that a record 500,000 people out of the Granite State’s 830,000 registered voters will head to the polls today.
HART’S LOCATION, N.H., 4:30 a.m. — It is the land of moose crossings and low, clinging fog; a place, in the immortal opening words of Twin Peaks, where “an orange light still means slow down.”
But Hart’s Location, N.H. has attracted the attention of the nation every four years since 1996 when it restarted the tradition of positioning itself as the first town in the first primary state to vote. True, there is another contender, Dixville Notch — a small community 80 miles north of here. But Hart’s Location-ites don’t like to think about them here.
“We believe that we are the first town to vote,” said Nancy Ritgard, a resident who helped in the polling booth. “There’s another small town that does that, but we’re much faster. And better.”
She added, “We were the ones that started it.”
The tradition began in 1948 but was phased out in 1964 when, some say, Dixville Notch stole the spot with a fast clock and an intrepid photographer who managed to get pictures out before anyone did here.
“They just got tired of it and they stopped,” said Caroline King, a volunteer who owns the original kitchen table where the votes were collected from 1948 to 1964. “I’ve got the table at home,” she said.
True to its basic origins, the poll takes place in a small makeshift cabin up a small bank, indicated only by a truck with flashing lights sitting on the road. The atmosphere is jovial, almost that of a village fête but on a tiny scale. Everybody knows each other, apart from the two or three journalists (one who comes from as far away as France). Lumberjack shirts abound even though we are miles away from Williamsburg, Brooklyn and its hipster chique. The ambiance contributes to the tight-knit nature of the gathering, festooned with flags and posters of previous results.
Two hours away from any substantial hub of civilization on a desperately lonely road, Hart’s Location residents should not be surprised that they attract so few here. The cabin doesn’t even have running water.
SEABROOK, N.H., 7:08 a.m. — “For the Democrats,” CBS News correspondent Chip Reid said a minute ago on The Early Show, “it’s all about change.”
Thanks. Didn’t notice that one.
Both the CNN-WMUR poll and a new Gallup poll (which shows Obama with a stunning 13-point lead) are getting heavy coverage on the morning shows today. Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 is getting good coverage of her counterattack yesterday, when she deployed a new stump speech, and John Edwards, too, is getting credit for campaigning at a breakneck pace, with events at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 6:35 a.m.
I was sleeping, mind you. But we will try to catch Edwards at a rally he’s scheduled for 12:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.
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., 3:41 p.m. — The campaign trail is hopping today. A few items to consider:
Senator Barack Obama’s even this morning was scheduled for 9 a.m.; it began at 10:21 a.m. Are rallies supposed to begin fashionably late, or something?
Third pseudo-celebrity sighting of the trip: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, standing in the lobby of the Palace Theater before Obama’s rally.
Obama entered to U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” and exited to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Neither song contains the word “change” (I checked). I thought candidates were supposed to stay on message!
More after the jump, plus photos from the campaign trail. (more…)
ROUTE 101, N.H., 8:32 a.m. — In the last season of The West Wing, Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vinick saw his campaign crash and burn after a nuclear power plant he pushed to build in his home state came close to a meltdown. His opponent, Democratic Congressman Matthew Santos, soared in the polls as Vinick was assailed for his support of dangerous, scary nuclear power.
Apparently some clever real-life politico thought that a pretty nifty idea. I caught an ad on the radio this morning from a 527 group that urged voters to spurn any presidential candidate who supports nuclear power.
You see, there’s a big nuclear power plant in Seabrook, N.H. — my hotel lists it as the No. 2 top attraction in the town — and there’s apparently been some talk about adding a second reactor to that plant. The advertisement, with fear-inducing music, warned voters that nuclear power plants will be attacked by terrorists, melt down, etc. and kill you and your children.
I don’t know the candidates’ positions on nuclear power, and I don’t care enough to look them up. But, in The West Wing, at least, Representative Santos won the election.