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Racing Through the Slush to Primary Day

By Joel Achenbach
MANCHESTER, N.H. 4:30 p.m.--Speed day on the campaign trail. Move fast, talk fast. Everyone's hitting the state like buckshot. They're going on adrenaline, coffee, and diesel, with their buses hurtling from one side of New Hampshire to another and candidates giving the dollar-store version of their stump speeches.

It's not an orderly day. There is no central event such as a debate. And the mild weather is turning everything to slush. Politically and hydrologically the situation is fluid.

John McCain just pulled into City Hall plaza and croaked his core message for eight or nine minutes. He blew a favorite joke about Congress spending money like a drunken sailor ("Screwed that line up," he said), but plowed ahead to a roaring conclusion: "I will never, ever, ever as president of the United States let you down!"

Things were a little unruly on the fringe of the crowd. The Ron Paul supporters shouted "No amnesty!" Someone carried a sign saying "Bomb Iran - Vote McCain." The veteran street performer Vermin Supreme, who wears a bat-wing epaulets and a boot jammed on his head and who himself filed to run in the N.H. primary (he's a kind of proto-Borat figure), wielded a megaphone as his merry band of supporters distributed somewhat inscrutable bumper stickers ("U.S. Out Of My Mouth").

All of this was in rather stark contrast to the staid event at the Nashua Country Club at midday, when Mitt Romney, one of the few people in the room not wearing a jacket and tie (he wore a nice crew-neck sweater), efficiently made his pitch to Rotarians. He brought with him a large board listing 12 things he's going to do as president, including such rather daunting tasks as "End Illegal Immigration." His persona is Mr. Fix-it.

A woman asked him what he'd do about the "extreme overpopulation of pets in this country," and he handled it perfectly. First, make fun of own ignorance of issue. Next, make clear that one is sensitive to concerns. Third, outline mental processes for solving problems of all kinds. He used the word "data" a lot. By the end of his answer, many a Rotarian was surely persuaded that in a Romney Administration all pets will be wanted and loved.

It's not a full day in New Hampshire without at least one house party. John Edwards had one in the early afternoon in the tony suburb of Bedford. The small crowd gathered in the driveway, standing on melting snow or around a smoky firepit. The icicles on he eaves dripped steadily. A peek into the house revealed celebrities on hand: Tim Robbins, accompanied by his partner, Susan Sarandon.

She told reporters she didn't presume to tell anyone how to vote, but would be happy if somehow she helped Edwards get an extra 30 seconds of airtime.

Robbins said he's frustrated by the way the news media portray the race as an Obama-Clinton face-off. But no matter what happens, he said, Democrats will pull together in November:

"We're going to give the Republicans a vacation from Washington, DC."

Edwards rolled in on a bus dubbed the Main Street Express. He's been on a marathon campaign tour that went all night and included events at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. somewhere in the frozen north of the state. "I've lost all track of time," he said when he popped out into the slush.

He talked quickly, but added a new line that I hadn't heard: He said that no matter what happens Tuesday, his fight on behalf of the working class and the middle class is the work of his lifetime and he'll be in this race through the convention, "all the way to the White House."

When Newsweek's Jonathan Alter asked him if that meant he'd keep campaigning even if he didn't win a primary, Edwards said emphatically, "I will win primaries."

But what if you don't, Alter persisted.

"I can't accept that premise," Edwards said.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 7, 2008; 6:02 PM ET
Categories:  Joel's New Hampshire Diary  
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Has John McCain finally lost his marbles??? I can't believe I voted for this guy in the 2000 primary. John McCain's recent comments about staying in Iraq for 100 or more years and bombing Iran are reckless and put all Americans at risk by radical Islamists. John McCain's statement and video will serve as a powerful recruiting tool for Bin Laden's Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic Jihadists, who appeal to other radicals to incite violence against Americans by claiming that the USA desires to kill Muslims and occupy Muslim lands in the Middle East indefinitely. I wonder how many brave American soldiers will now be killed in Iraq and Americans elsewhere in the world due to his radical warmonger statements. The blood of these soldiers and civilians will be on his hands alone. God help our country if this bozo ever becomes President. He's now trying to start a war with Iran and they are 3 times as large as Iraq and won't be a pushover like Iraq. John McCain can send his sons and daughters to die in Iran and Iraq, just don't try to send my children you chicken hawk fear monger. This country is already bankrupt financially and morally over the war with Iraq that had nothing to do with 911, nor fighting terrorism and finding Bin Laden. Tell me John McCain how is the middle class in America better off today with a dollar worth nothing on the international markets, $3.25 per gallon at the pump, taxes and deficits soaring, our borders being overrun by illegals, and the middle class shrinking? Wake up America and vote against the Neoconmen who have hijacked the Republican Party and this formerly great country of ours. This statement solidified why I am voting for Ron Paul in this election and I urge you to do the same.

Posted by: encinomanbrewery | January 8, 2008 2:18 AM | Report abuse

I'm not surprised that Johnathan Alter would ask that kind of slap in the face question to Edwards. He's been on the Obama bandwagon for quite some time now.

The media has been excluding Edwards from the majority of coverage and when they do cover him they always try to get in some pundit who disses Edwards. As a matter of fact, I've seen more coverage of the people who talk down Edwards campaign than the actual Edwards campaign. And even with this lack of coverage Edwards is still creeping up in the National polls. Imagine what he could do if the media would stop writing him out of the narrative.

Posted by: pmorlan1 | January 7, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

LOL! C'mon! When Pets become US citizens, and are granted constitutional rights, is when we should have our National Leaders worrying about Community Pet populations!

Unless we are refering to Vlad Putin's little Long-Nosed Persian Lap-Dogs!

Bad Mahmoud! Stop doing that to Putin's Leg! Bad Persian Lap-Doggie!

Ohhhh Mahmoud, look what you've done!

Posted by: rat-the | January 7, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

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