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So Many Candidates, So Little Time

Giuliani in Manchester? Clinton in Penacook? Or do we go see Ron Paul doing a walking tour (sounds like a photo op) of businesses in quaint Milford (with the gazebo -- or is it a bandstand? -- I never can get it straight -- in the village square)?

My instinct tells me to go see John Edwards. Yesterday (along with ace A-blog photographers Paris Achenbach and Amanda Nooter -- as soon as we figure out the resizing/cropping issue we'll post a photo album of the NH Primary) I saw Clinton, Obama, Huckabee and Romney. So in just 24 hours, tossing McCain in there from Thursday night, it was possible for a reporter to see most of the major candidates in New Hampshire.

This is what's great about the NH Primary: Everyone's pretty close at hand, if you don't mind the occasional foray down an enigmatic country road (we've already burned up a tank of gas -- please don't ask what the blog's carbon footprint has been the last couple of days).

The photogs, by the way, got to shake President Clinton's hand, and Obama's. So their lives are complete.

It would make sense to see Edwards, who once again has had a strong second place in Iowa and yet finds himself nearly boxed out of the main narrative of the Democratic race. Modesty so thoroughly saturates my flesh that I won't point out that I called the results in Iowa correctly (pretty much anyone could see it coming a mile away), but I'll note again that Edwards beating Clinton (by a hair) may not have been as strategically as important as Obama beating Edwards. No one has campaigned more furiously for the nomination, in every way, than John Edwards, and he'll be all over the state today.

Whatever happened to Rudy?

Is Fred Thompson still running?

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Here are a couple more Trail items from yesterday that never got cross-posted here:

CONCORD, N.H., 1:15 p.m.--This is the big Obama event of the day, and the gym at Concord High is packed to the rafters. Actually, now that I think about it, there is definitely some unused space up there in which I might set up the laptop and blog.

Noticeable uptick in journalistic celebrity: There's MoDo! Please, give me a bon mot, Mo. [I asked her for a prediction and she said, "I don't predict, I just report."]

And here's Bob Schieffer. I asked him for some sage analysis, and he produced. "It was one of the most exciting nights I can remember. [Obama's] running against one of the most famous people in the world, who's raised 100 million dollars. An African American running in a virtually all-white state. And he wins. I think he's the man to beat on the Democratic side...I'm beginning to think that Obama's for real."

I suggested that Iowa showed the power of personality in American politics. Sen. Clinton has never had personality as much of an asset. Obama's more likable. And look at Huckabee: Funny, quirky, doesn't take himself too seriously, hangs out with future SecDef Chuck Norris.

"I think the three most likable candidates are Obama, Huckabee and McCain," Schieffer said.

And every vote for Huckabee in Iowa might as well have been a vote for McCain, too, for its effect on Romney. Schieffer said that when he saw McCain yesterday afternoon he was walking on clouds. "He reminded me of the McCain of 2000."

If the gym gets any more packed we're going to squirt out onto Pleasant Street.

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By Joel Achenbach
CONCORD, N.H., 2:30 p.m.--I wonder how many hard-bitten journalists standing in back, encrusted with decades of skepticism, nonetheless began to suspect that they were listening to the next president of the United States.

Barack Obama wasn't even particularly sharp by his standards. Probably tired to the bone after Iowa. A couple of times he almost lost his train of thought. But he could have taken a nap on stage and still would have rocked this house. He just needed to be vertical. His Iowa bounce has given his campaign the kind of energy you just never see at a Hillary event. Hillary's morning appearance in Nashua was, by comparison, funereal.

And it's not just that she had about one-tenth as large a crowd. By touching on her ability to withstand the Republican attack machine she reminds people of the vicious politics of the last 15 years. Obama's message basically says, Don't be afraid. Don't give in the politics of fear. He seemed to make almost a direct response to what Clinton said this morning about how she's been vetted: People in Iowa, he said, realized that "the real gamble was having the same old folks doing the same old thing."

He hit the usual notes on ending partisanship, bringing America together, reaching out to independents and even Republicans, having "the courage to believe." Not a lot of specifics, but then a wonky speech would have flattened the emotional high of the crowd. It was time for a rally, not a colloquy.

For so long he has talked about hope (people call him "a hopemonger," he joked), but now he's got results to back him up. He's got the numbers.

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HENNIKER, NH, 5:45 p.m. -- Mike Huckabee rocks! Some presidential candidates, such as Calvin Coolidge and (I'm pulling this from memory) Grover Cleveland, only played one or two songs before they delivered a stump speech. But Huckabee played four! He teamed up with a New Hampshire band called Mama Kicks. When he finished he said, "Do you think they have that much fun at Hillary's rally?"

Not this morning, that's for sure.

But wait: Musical performance finished, Huckabee then turned the stage over to Chuck Norris, the action star, who held forth for...let's see...13 solid minutes. That's more time than Fred Thompson has spent campaigning all year!

Finally, Huckabee took back over and talked about breathing in the "wind of change." This has been the Day of Change. Hillary talked about change, of course, and Obama had a huge banner saying Change We Can Believe In. Huckabee mentioned change repeatedly, though the specifics differ from the Democrats (he wants to get rid of the income tax and the IRS, for example, and institute a consumption tax).

Ken Leonard, 34, a stay-at-home father (he brought a baby for Huckabee to kiss) from Farmington, NH, said he likes Huckabee's conservative positions on abortion, gay marriage and gun control. "I think when you start breaking down the social and moral values, the whole society falls apart."

Not far away, Elisabeth Williams, 29, sat with all six of her children. She worries about what another President Clinton might do to America.

"It would be horrible for children. If she would have her way she'd take so many rights away from parents."

Neither Leonard or Williams have much faith in Mitt Romney, who will have to prove to New Hampshire that he's not as squishy on the social issues as some people think. He's somewhere stumping tonight. And more than one reporter tonight is surely ruing having missed Romney's appearance in Concord today at the Common Man Restaurant.

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 5, 2008; 8:39 AM ET
 
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