November 18, 2007

So long New Hampshire

Florida lawmakers might dismiss New Hampshire as nothing but a suburb of Boston, but the Granite State is big stuff when it comes to picking the next president of the U.S.

The state guards its position as first primary state in the nation zealously and the Herald spent several days last week talking to voters in the Granite State who are convinced the state, dotted with dairy farms and mill towns, deserves to be at the top of the pack. Read the story here.

And read about one of the most powerful men in politics, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, who may not carry a cell phone, but has the sole authority to set the date of the presidential primary here. The Democrat who has been in office longer than Florida's last 12 secretaries of state, also offers his opinion of Florida's most famous Secretary of State, Katherine Harris.

And spend breakfast at a tiny diner where regulars never know when the blue-plate special might come with a visit from a presidential hopeful. That story is here.

And check out the photo gallery as candidates seek votes in high school gynasiums and Boys and Girls Clubs.

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November 15, 2007

On the air in New Hampshire, on the ground in Florida

Rudy Giuliani is campaigning today in Florida, but he begins airing his very first TV ads in New Hampshire - stumping in two states at once.

Giuliani's new spot, Tested, touts his accomplishments as New York City mayor.

It marks a bit of a departure in strategy for Giuliani's campaign, which has held off spending television dollars in the early primary state, under the belief that it didn't necessarily need a major victory in Iowa and New Hampshire because it could count on wins in mega-states like Florida on Jan. 29, and New York and California on Feb. 5.

But pundits say going 26 days from the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus without a strong showing could damage Giuliani's campaign and the ad reflects Giuliani's bid to boost his numbers in New Hampshire, where a recent CBS News/NY Times poll shows he's tied with Arizona Sen. John McCain, both of them trailing frontrunner Mitt Romney, who campaigned in New Hampshire on Monday.

As Naked Politics on the Road departs New Hampshire (in rainy 61 degree weather, maybe Florida and New Hampshire are not so different after all) McCain arrives in New Hampshire for a four-day swing. He'll make a pilgrimage Friday to tiny, remote Dixville Notch, a Republican stronghold and home of one of the state's most fabled political events: Every four years, Dixville Notch voters - all 30 or so of them - gather at the stroke of midnight before the primary to cast their ballots in the ballroom of The Balsams, a resort hotel.

McCain lost there to George W. Bush in 2000 by 2 votes out of 23 cast. Giuliani will be closer to home, campaigning today in The Villages in Central Florida and mingling with NASCAR fans Sunday at the Ford 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Finale at Miami Speedway in Homestead.

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November 14, 2007

Obama taps beer, support in Portsmouth

Dick Gephardt picked out Christmas gifts in this chaming harbor town in the 2003 presidential campaign, and last month, Barack Obama got behind the bar at a local pub and poured a beer.

"It brought a lot of business into here,'' said Dominic Valdez, a host at The Portsmouth Brewery. "He went around the entire restaurant and shook everybody's hand. I couldn't believe how patient he was."

That New Hampshire's position at the head of the primary calendar generates revenue for shopkeepers, restaurants, hotels and media outlets is unmistakable. In fact, some Florida politicians argue that New Hampshire's lofty rhetoric about preserving political traditions aims to gloss over its bottom-line incentive.

A University of New Hampshire study found that the ecomomic impact of the 2000 primary was $264 million, only a fraction of the $42 billion gross state product.

Cindy Pariseau, owner of the Simply Unforgettable gift shop, said the extra business every four years helps, but doesn't keep her afloat. She added that moving New Hampshire's primary -- which used to be in March --into early January to protect its frontline status cuts the campaign spending season short.

"Although if they do move it up, it might help our Christmas season, because chances are the candidates are going be around,'' she said. "They've all got to buy gifts, right?''

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Stumping Under the Steeple

Portsmth The steeple of the North Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire serves as a landmark for the square where presidential candidates have stumped trying to get support for their campaigns in the state that has carried a lot of weight in the primary. PHOTO BY CHARLES TRAINOR JR.

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Clinton's thirsty, undercaffeinated campaign

Democratic gains in once-mostly red New Hampshire have emboldened presidential campaigns to venture north into previously untapped territory, akin to setting up camp in Republican strongholds in the Panhandle.

Hillary Clinton has 16 offices across the state, including small towns such as Berlin, at the edge of the White Mountains, and in Peterborough, home to one of the oldest basket manufacturing plants in the country.

"Those are not typical spots for Democrats," said spokeswoman Kathleen Strand. "Historically it's been a Republican state, but 2006 was a tidal wave."

Last November, Democrats took New Hampshire's two congressional seats, grabbed control of the State House, and re-elected Democratic Gov. John Lynch with 74 percent of the vote.

Clinton has one of the biggest campaign organizations in the state, headquartered about a block off the main strip in downtown Manchester. Occupying the second floor of a nondescript office building, the headquarters are a maze of tiny offices crammed with computers, campaign signs, and mounds of soda cans awaiting recycling (the caffeine keeps the volunteers going).

A copy of Clinton's official portrait as First Lady hangs above the staircase. "Dial like a champion today," it intones.

Strand declined to disclose how much the Democratic frontrunner is spending on advertising in New Hampshire, saying only it's a "signficant buy." Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has invested $4.2 million on media.

But Strand discounted suggestions that money and TV advertising can seal the deal among New Hampshire voters. About 7 in 10 voters in Iowa and New Hampshire say how much time a candidate spends in their state is an important factor in who they chose, according to a recent New York Times/CBS poll. One in four called the face time "very important."

Clinton has visited the state 19 times - same as rival Barack Obama, Strand noted.

"The candidate has to come and talk to voters, shake their hands, answer their questions, look in their eyes," Strand said. "We'll be in two diners, a coffee shop, a restaurant, 20 voters at one location, 150 at the next...Voters here expect and want to see you here and hear from you directly."

Video | Interview with Kathleen Strong, spokeswoman for the Hillary Clinton New Hampshire campaign

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Morning on the Owen's farm

Video | Owen's family gets ready for breakfast by gathering eggs from the hens in the coop

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Got milk

Girls_2 Naked Politics on the Road reporters Lesley Clark and Beth Reinhard try pulled milk in the kitchen on the Owen's Farm outside Concord, New Hampshire. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Talking primary and pulling milk

Milk_4 Farmer and local legislator Derek Owen pulls milk from a cow on his farm outside Concord, New Hampshire. Owen feels New Hampshire deserves the early primary, for historical reasons. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Milk a cow, pass a bill

Derek Owen rises before dawn to milk the cows at his Hopkinton farm. Chores completed at the 200-acre spread, he showers, puts on a suit and heads to the state Capitol in Concord where he serves in the nation's largest state legislature.

The job pays $100 a year, "plus mileage," Owen added. On the farm, he makes less than $25,000 annually.

"You've got to either have money or the stubborness to want to make change," said Owen, who along with his wife, Ruth, raises and grows most of the food they put on their large wooden kitchen table. Excess is sold and they note the market is expanding for food grown locally.

Owen has hosted underdog Democratic contender Dennis Kucinich at the farm and defends New Hampshire's right to hold the nation's first presidential primary. But he chuckled when asked whether a candidate with a shoestring budget and big ideas can take off in the state.

"Wrong," he said, his words punctuated by the whoosh of milk hitting a metal pail. "Because money is how you get your face and your word out there. The more money you have the more ads you can buy."

And spend they have: Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton's campaign has 16 offices across the state; and Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has spent $4.2 million on advertising in the state.

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November 13, 2007

Edwards to Florida: "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha."

Two days of talking to New Hampshire voters has failed to turn up a single person who would be offended if the Democratic candidates broke their pledge and campaigned in rogue state Florida.

Informed of this fact, presidential contender John Edwards responded with a chuckle as he walked out of the Salem High School cafeteria where he had met with about 200 New Hampshire voters.

"We've all pledged not to campaign in Florida and abide by the DNC (Democratic National Committee) rules," Edwards said. Then he hopped in his awaiting car and sped off to spend the night in Iowa, another authorized early primary state and the one where he is staking his campaign.

The DNC, trying to exert control over states jockeying for position at the front of the presidential primary calendar, has punished the state for scheduling its primary before Feb. 5. Penalties include stripping the state of its convention delegates.

But many New Hampshire voters empathize with Florida's plight. Donna Thompson, 42, moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts - which might as well be Siberia when it comes to the presidential campaign because of its late primary. She's been enjoying the attention lavished on New Hampshire voters.

"It's a world of difference up here," said Thompson, who along with her son, Kyle Ruby, 17, has signed up to volunteer for the Edwards' campaign. "The candidates come through town all the time, Barack Obama was speaking on the lawn next to the library."

Thompson said she wouldn't mind sharing the wealth with Florida, but she cautioned that it comes with responsibilities.

"It gets annoying," she said. "Your phone rings constantly, the flyers are in the mail, people are knocking on your door."

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The knitter

Edwards_4

Presidential candidate John Edwards speaks at a town hall meeting in Milford, New Hampshire. Knitting a scarf in a front row seat and nodding her head in agreement with the candidate Jone LaBombarde only stopped knitting long enough to clap her hands in support for Edwards. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF



Video | John Edwards speaks at a town hall meeting in Milford, New Hampshire

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Knitting with John Edwards

Jone LaBombarde came out to see John Edwards on a Tuesday evening, but that didn't mean the Hollis, N.H. mom of four was going to get behind on her knitting.

LaBombarde, sitting no more than three feet from the Democratic presidential contender, was among 150 people who packed the Boys and Girls Club in Milford. Another day in New Hampshire, another presidential candidate. Knit one, pearl two.

"The great thing is that you get eye contact,'' said Steve Morgan, a 65-year-old retiree from Amherst, who has seen Edwards before. "You get to ask questions...It's the New Hampshire way, and I don't think there's any other state that does it.''

The crowd, sitting on folding chairs and standing shoulder to shoulder, was dressed casually in jeans and flannel shirts as if they were attending a PTA meeting. In Florida, such an intimate gathering with a presidential candidate would undoubtedly include a suit-and-tie crowd sipping wine and wielding large checks.

"One of the things about New Hampshire is it makes it easier for people who are not well known to become known," said LaBombarde, who at 53 says she's old enough to remember when a little-known Georgia governor began campaigning in New Hampshire and everyone asked, "Who is that guy?"

That guy was former president Jimmy Carter, who won the New Hampshire primary in 1976.

"There's something important about that," LaBombarde said.

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Vermin Supreme is running for president

Anyone with $1,000 and a dream can run for president in New Hampshire. This year, there will be 43 candidates on the ballot. Among the contenders: Vermin Supreme of Rockport, Mass., O. Savior of Minneapolis and Caroline Killeen, an American citizen currently residing in Assisi, Italy. She and other out-of-towners registered by mail, but the big shots always make it official in person.

"Hillary Clinton sat here, Barack Obama sat over there,'' said Secretary of State William Gardner, gesturing at the chairs surrounding a wooden table outside his office. "It's important that there be a place that candidates can come, and start, and have a chance.''

The presidential free-for-all contrasts with the process in Florida, where the leaders of the two political parties and four legislative leaders get to decide the names that go on the ballot. Other New Hampshire claims to fame: brainchild of the first national conventions, the name of the Republican party, first signers of the Declaration of Independence. Despite its small population, the state has the largest state house in the country, with 400 members.

New Hampshire has more officials elected to more offices more often than any other state; even polling place supervisors are elected and the governor has to pass muster every two years. That citizen-as-legislator political climate translates into the presidential campaign, Gardner said.

"You can't be an imperial candidate,'' he said. "You can't come with an entourage. You have to be willing to do the one-one-one."

Posted by Beth Reinhard at 04:06 PM
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Primary history

Sign A historical marker next to the New Hampshire's State Capitol building in Concord notes the state's primary history. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Candidates sign notice

Petition_2A New Hampshire primary noticed signed by the 2007 presidential candidates. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Red Arrow Diner

Diner00_newhamp_natl_ctj_3 The Red Arrow Diner in downtown Manchester is a popular stop on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.  CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Homemade Twinkies, whoopie pies and presidential politics

All served up 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Red Arrow Diner in downtown Manchester. Hillary Clinton visited the tiny diner, just 16 stools and 5 tables, earlier this month; the John Edwards campaign cased the joint this morning for an impromptu visit by the candidate later this afternoon.

"I missed Hillary, I was mad because I wanted to talk to her," said waitress Penny Koski, pouring coffee and handing out plates of scrambled eggs, hash browns and baked beans to patrons at the diner so celebrated it has its own theme song which plays from speakers outside the restaurant.

The Red Arrow - open since 1922 - has been a favorite among New Hampshire locals for years.

"It's like Cheers, everybody knows your name," says Koski, who jokes that she bought a Jeep so she could get to work even during snowstorms.

Candidates are frequent visitors - because in New Hampshire, says waitress Andrea Robert, 27, "you can ask anybody about politics, everybody always has an opinion.

"There's barely any people who are like, 'I just don't know,'' Robert said.

New Hampshire has earned the privilege to vet the candidates for the rest of the country, said Jeannette St. Laurent, 80, noting that many of the candidates have swung through her hometown of Epping, N.H., pop. 6,000.

"You're darn tootin'," St. Laurent said of New Hampshire's birthright. "And why we not? Look how old we are. ...why would you doubt us?"

Video | Barbara Corman, 52, from Manchester, NH, talks about the state's diversity and how it affects the vote

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Video | Penn Koski, a waitress at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH, talks about the candidates who have stopped there

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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'Living history' in New Hampshire

Voters in New Hampshire take their politics seriously. Consider Vanilla-Clove Moonstone, 30, a Claremont mom who took her four homeschooled children - ages one to 12 - to hear Barack Obama speak at the high school gym last night. They had tried, unsucessfully, a week ago to hear Hillary Clinton when she stopped at a local restaurant.

"It's a living a history moment for my kids," Moonstone said, noting that she's incorporating New Hampshire's role as first in the nation into her homeschool curriculum. "I told them, 'You're part of history. You heard possibly the next president of the United States. Not many people can say that."

What the small, mostly white state lacks in diversity, it makes up for in participation, said Almisha Readdy, senior associate director of leadership giving at Dartmouth College's development office.

"It's a tradition and people are really into it," said Readdy, a black woman who stood out in a sea of 500 mostly white faces at a high school gym in Lebanon, where Obama also spoke yesterday. "If people here had lost interest I would say we need to be replaced. But look around, there are people making it a priority to be here. They take their personal responsibility seriously."

In Concord, Republican Mitt Romney met with about 20 veterans at a retirement home, a small gathering that voters say reflects the intimacy of New Hampshire politics.

Among those waiting eagerly for him to appear yesterday: Mike Flathers, 63, a Vietnam vet who has met the former Massachusetts governor nearly 20 times. The diehard Republican said he once tried to infiltrate enemy territory, attending a Democratic event with John Kerry event in nearby Salem.

"I was kindly escorted out of there," Flathers said.

George Hamilton, 83, listened intently from his wheelchair as Romney saluted the veterans for their service. He pronounced Romney "an engaging chap."

Posted by Lesley Clark at 08:23 AM
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November 12, 2007

Obama: "People actually get a chance to talk to you"

LEBANON, N.H. - Dem prez contender Barack Obama told an enthusiastic audience at a high school gym tonight that the cozy politics in states like New Hampshire make his bid for the presidency possible.

"We could not compete nationally with the Clinton brand," said Obama, casting himself as a lesser-known contender, despite his success at nearly keeping pace when it comes to the 'Clinton brand' in terms of $$ raising. "But if we focused on those early states where people actually get a chance to talk to you and get to know you, we had a chance.."

New Hampshire voters, he noted, have the "enormous privilege" of voting before all but 48 other states.

"You guys have more juice in this election than anyone but Iowa," he said. "You're probably going to decide the next president of the United States, the leader of the free world. Use your voice."

Among the convinced, Christine Benson, 58, vice president at a local homebuilder.  She's seen Obama several times, along with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

"In New Hampshire you can hang out with all of them," Benson said. "It's said in a joking way, but in New Hampshire you don't vote for someone unless you've shaken their hand at least three times."

Benson said she bears no ill will toward Florida, which wants to move up its primary to gain a little more prominence.

"Why would you not want to?" she said. "It totally makes sense. Who wouldn't want a chance to get up close to the person who could become the next president."

Video | Barack Obama speaks at high school in Claremont, N.H.

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Obama in the Stevens High School gym

Amid the bright red banners celebrating the Cardinals' athletic program, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama fielded questions from about 300 voters in a grand, brick building befitting a New England mill town.

The student population here is a long ways from South Florida's melting pot. Of the 702 students, none are Hispanic, two are black and three are Asian.

There's less than a handful of minorities in the audience tonight. But their questions reflect a wide range of concerns: China, care for veterans, aid to Pakistan, free trade agreements, same-sex civil unions.

There's a mom standing in the back with a baby on her shoulders; most of the people are sitting in folding chairs draped with their coats and scarves.

Claremont, with a population of roughly 14,000, has hosted two major candidates in as many weeks. Hillary Clinton stopped by Sophie and Zeke's restaurant, known for its "comfort food," one week ago.

In a pitch that seemed more suitable for a town council race, Obama urged the audience three times to fill out campaign pledge cards

He said: "I know I'm shameless but I'm running for president."

Mascot00_newhamp_natl_ctj Presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks to a crowd at a high school gym in Claremont, New Hampshire. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF


Wolf00_newhamp_natl_ctj Wearing her wolf hat with tail, Brandy Clemons leaves the gym after the speech. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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Lunch at the center of the political universe

If you're running for president, you've probably been to the Merrimack Restaurant in downtown Manchester.

Among the luminaries adorning the wood-paneled wall: Gary Hart, Bob Kerry, Bill Bradley, Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer, who starred in one of the most memorable New Hampshire primary moments when he toppled off a podium at the Bisquick Pancake Flipping Contest in 2000. The restaurant wall also features a framed, autographed copy of the late Paul Tsongas' treatise "A Call to Economic Arms."

Secretary of State William Gardner ordered the soup of the day, while state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro got the clam roll. CBS news correspondent Jeff Greenfield hovered nearby for an interview with Gardner, whose sole authority to set New Hampshire's primary date makes him a celebrity in these parts. D'Allesandro has got star power too, having hosted Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson before endorsing Clinton. He ticked off a list of guests from past presidential campaigns -- all of whom came without expecting checks -- closing with "Gore and Lieberman have slept over."

Outside, a new mural graces the restaurant's facade, depicting Bill Clinton serving coffee to Steve Forbes, Joe Lieberman, Bob Dole and Gary Hart. This year,  Dennis Kucinich has staked out prime real estate on the building's second floor for his local campaign headquarters.

Gardner said he didn't bear ill will toward Florida for scheduling an early primary to become more relevant, especially since lawmakers said they wouldn't trample on New Hampshire's leading role. He noted that none of New Hampshire's elected officials signed onto the pledge that bars Democratic candidates from campaigning in Florida.

"Florida didn't really do anything to New Hampshire,'' he said over lunch. Earlier, he had remarked: "It's outrageous to have political insiders deciding whether candidates can talk to voters in other states."

Mural00campaigndadectjjpg New Hampshire’s Secretary of State Bill Gardner, left,  and state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro walk along the mural on the wall outside Merrimack Restaurant in downtown Manchester. The landmark restaurant has been a traditional stop for presidential candidates. The mural shows five candidates and only one with a successful bid, Bill Clinton. CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

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N.H. senator says GOP 'arrogant, stupid' to punish Florida

Holding American flags and red poppies for Veteran's Day, about 20 residents of the Harris Hill Retirement Home in Concord were granted an audience this morning with the state's Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney.

"I've been through these election hassles. That's the penalty for living in New Hampshire,'' quipped Vietnam vet George Hamilton, 83. "It's like the weather. If you don't like it, move.''

Romney was accompanied by U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, son of the state's former governor. Gregg called the Republican National Committee's decision to punish five states scheduling primaries before Feb. 5 -- including New Hampshire and Florida -- "arrogant, stupid, and one of the reasons the national party is doing such a poor job representing Republicans."

The penalties haven't discouraged Republican candidates from waging competitive campaigns in the early states, but the harsher sanctions by the Democratic national party have prompted the presidental candidates to swear off campaigning in Florida, worth exactly zero delegates.

Romney said he wasn't taking his first-place showing in the New Hampshire polls for granted, but he hopes a strong finish will give him a "boost'' in Florida's Jan. 29 primary. New Hamphire hasn't picked a date yet, but state law requires it to be first. "I hope you support (Gov. Romney) in December or January,'' Gregg said.

Concord00newhampnatlctjjpg_3

Muriel MacLeod shakes hands with Presidential candidate Mitt Romey as he visits the Harris Hill Retirement Home in Concord, NH. Romey spoke to the residents and observed a Veterans Day ceremony.

CHARLES TRAINOR JR / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Video | Mitt Romney at a nursing home in Concord, N.H.

CHARLES TRAINOR JR./MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Posted by Beth Reinhard at 12:08 PM
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It's 'wicked' cold in the Granite State

It's 26 degrees outside. Already starting to wonder why candidates come here instead of Florida, where no one is wearing thermals today. Or owns them.

The Miami Herald is in New Hampshire today through Thursday to find out what makes the state hosting the nation's first presidential primary so special. Why does a state smaller than Broward County figure so prominently in choosing the next president of the United States?

The answer: It's small enough to care. In New Hampshire, about one-third of likely Democratic primary voters and one in five Republican voters have seen or met a presidential candidate in person, according to the latest Marist poll.

Today is Veteran's Day, which gives candidates a platform for extolling the sacrifices made by generations of Americans. Expecting to hear lofty rhetoric, and from Democrats, biting criticism of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and treatment of returning vets.

Republican Mitt Romney is scheduled to greet workers at a Manchester manufacturing plant this morning, and then he heads a retirement home in Concord to talk to -- who else? -- veterans.

Democrat Barack Obama is going to a residence for homeless veterans in Nashua. Then he heads to "meet the candidate" forums at high schools in Claremont and Lebanon.

Posted by Beth Reinhard at 08:27 AM
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Clinton slips in New Hampshire

The presidential candidates making the rounds in New Hampshire tomorrow -- Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards and Republican Mitt Romney -- should be in a good mood, thanks to a new Marist Poll.

Frontrunner Hillary Clinton's lead has shrunk from 21 percentage points last month to 11 points. Clinton gets 36 percent of the vote, followed by 25 percent for Obama and 14 percent for Edwards.

The survey's authors say her decline is due to men who are at least 45 years old. But Clinton supporters are more committed than voters favoring her rivals. She's the choice among voters who want a strong leader, while Obama leads among voters who want change.

On the Republican side, Romney receives 33 percent of the vote, compared with 22 percent for Rudy Giuliani, and 13 percent for Senator John McCain.

The poll of 1,453 voters and resudents likely to register was conducted Nov. 2-Nov. 6. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent for Democratic voters and 4.5 percent for Republican voters. Download NHPZ0711.pdf

Posted by Beth Reinhard at 12:01 AM
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November 11, 2007

Three candidates, two days, one state

That's right: Republican Mitt Romney and  Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards will be campaigning in New Hampshire tomorrow, and Edwards will be there on Tuesday, too. The only time Florida -- whose rich donor network makes it one of the top draws in the country -- sees that much candidate activity is at the tail end of a fundraising quarter.

Tomorrow, Secretary of State William Gardner is also making himself available, even though it's Veteran's Day and he has a day off. Having trouble reaching him today because he doesn't regularly carry a cell phone -- or a Blackberry, for that matter -- and the home number he provided doesn't seem to have an answering machine. Doesn't he sounds more like a small-town mail carrier than one of the most powerful figures in presidential politics?

Gardner was surprised that none of the presidential candidates were slated to be in the state on Wednesday. In New Hampshire, a day without candidates is the exception to the rule.

Posted by Beth Reinhard at 04:32 PM
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