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It's Cold, Yes, But At Least Someone Voted Already

By Joel Achenbach

CONCORD, NH, 6:30 a.m.--It's zero degrees here. Not "feels like" zero. Actually zero, according to the website of the Union Leader. "Feels like" minus 75 with a steady wind from the Arctic, or perhaps from someplace even further north than that. The moon, maybe. A lunar wind that'll cut you in half.

But temperatures here, if not the politics, should begin to moderate today and, with a couple of feet of fresh snow, it should be picture-perfect New Hampshire Primary conditions. And we can't complain about the weather, because this morning we have a special gift: News! At last!

For so long the campaign has had to survive off polls, opinions, prognostications, and the ceaseless prattlings of people in my business. Letting the voters participate for the first time was dangerous, to be sure, but after a solid YEAR, yes, YEAR of non-stop campaigning it was perhaps time to open things up.

The results in Iowa mean, if anything, that the races in both parties are more unpredictable and wide-open than ever, unless you happen to be, say, Chris Dodd or Joe Biden, who were classy candidates and who head home, I hope, feeling like it was all worth it. [Note to self: How long does the Chuck Norris gimmick go on? Until he's Secretary of Defense???]

I watched the TV coverage with the deliriously happy Obama campaign folks at Milly's Tavern in Manchester last night. Patrick Murphy, a congressman from Pennsylvania, said, "I think it's a great night for America." He said Obama's New Hampshire operation is the strongest political team ever assembled. He said Obama has hired 700 people and only 4 have left the campaign over the past year. "That's unheard of," he said.

Last night John McCain had the state to himself, and if he seemed a little tired, he could lean on his new campaign partner, Joe Lieberman. Ask McCain a question and he might just hand it off to the apostate Democrat. I asked Ted Gatsas, the state GOP senate leader who endorsed McCain last night, whether there was anyone in New Hampshire who hadn't yet heard McCain's stump speech. Gatsas said, "In New Hampshire you have to hear somebody two or three times before you make a decision." The key is to ask a candidate the same question in two different towns and make sure you get the same answer, he said.

One guy has done just that: Dave Tiffany, who described himself as a full-time anti-war activist. He grilled McCain three weeks ago, he said, and did it again last night in Derry, demanding to know how long McCain would keep troops in Iraq. McCain, who let Tiffany follow up several times - the exchange was a little testy but still civil -- said he'd keep troops in Iraq indefinitely, but only if Americans are no longer being killed.

"How long do you want us to be in South Korea?" McCain said. He said Americans have been in Japan for 60 years, in South Korea for 50. When Tiffany asked if he intended to keep Americans in Iraq for 50 years, McCain shot back, "Make it a hundred."

I'm heading off to Nashua to see Bill and Hillary. I thought Hillary's concession speech in Iowa was rather clever in the way she framed it as a celebration of all things Democrat. Never mind who won or, um, lost: Just look at that amazing Democratic turnout! We'll win in November! She all but said: Everyone Gets a Trophy.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 4, 2008; 8:16 AM ET
Categories:  Joel's New Hampshire Diary  
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