Now Actual Voters Decide
By Joel Achenbach
NASHUA, N.H., 10:30 a.m. -- No real campaigning today, just photo ops, street demonstrations, chanting, speculation, punditry and prayers. We have once again hazarded the future of the country to actual citizens, which is the mark of a mature democracy, only with the large asterisk that only the citizens of a small New England state get to decide. It's like near-beer, not entirely satisfying but better than nothing.
Eager to get back home, a campaign trail scribbler nonetheless has to confess a certain disappointment with this year's version of the New Hampshire Primary. Secretary of State Bill Gardner may have made the wrong decision on the date. By state law he had to set the date at least seven days prior to any "similar election." In his judgment, Michigan's Jan. 15 primary was a similar election.
But the Jan. 8 date gave New Hampshire only four full days of campaigning after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. It's all been a mad dash without much of a storyline other than Obamamania (if someone reports that he walked on water, please note that it is because the lakes are frozen). Gardner could have said that Michigan's not really similar, because the Democrats are skipping it. He could have set the primary for Jan. 10. People are capable of voting on a Thursday. But all of this can be discussed in four years when Gardner stands once again over his calendar with index finger poised portentously.
Back to the contest at hand: It looks like it's going to be a great day for John McCain. His bus just pulled into a polling place on Broad Street, and McCain dived into the media scrum and disappeared from sight. It is possible that he was devoured alive by camera people; later I'll look for the bones.
Off to the side stood a white-haired gentleman holding a "McCain" placard. He was being very dutiful as a photo-op backdrop. But this was no ordinary volunteer -- it was Fred Malek, the big-cheese Republican (and would-be Washington Nationals owner). He said he's co-chairman of McCain's campaign. "Chairman" is often a somewhat honorary title in a presidential operation.
"I finally found my proper role in the campaign -- sign carrier," Malek said. His wife, Marlene, was on sign duty as well. "I'd do anything for John McCain," she said.
Mr. Malek predicted a McCain win today and huge momentum.
"He doesn't have to win Michigan" -- Mitt Romney has a native-state advantage there -- "but I think he will. You can't underestimate the momentum that's going to be generated by a victory here."
Does McCain have enough money to compete in the large states?
"It's picking up. Nothing like a little success to open the money faucets."
Washington Post editors
January 8, 2008; 11:40 AM ET
Categories: Joel's New Hampshire Diary , The GOP
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