Monday Afternoon - Merrimack, Salem and Manchester
Jan 7, 2008
|The next event on our schedule was billed as a Rudy Giuliani "Town Hall Meeting" at the headquarters of PC Connection in Merrimack, set for 3:30 P.M.. As happened at the Hillary event in the morning, though, we were disappointed, once there, to learn that the event was not open to the general public. (Giuliani has been conducting a very limited schedule of appearances here in NH, focusing his efforts and energies instead on the Florida primary, later this month. Critics in NH have accused him of conducting a "drive-thru campaign" here.)
Since it was still only a little after 2:00 P.M., we immediately set out for a 3:00 "Ask Mitt [Romney] Anything" event at the VFW Hall in Salem. Like almost all the events we've attended this year, the crowd there was larger than expected, and we were forced to park well away from the building, down a narrow dead-end road clogged with other parked cars. (As we entered the building, we passed Anderson Cooper of CNN, standing outside.)
The VFW Hall was stuffy and very crowded, but the crowd was well-behaved and the staff very courteous. Mitt finally arrived, about 20 minutes late, with his wife, second son and two twin grandchildren in tow.
One knock against Mitt has been that he is too wooden, almost "robotic," but he didn't quite live up to that charge. Still, we had the sense that he's almost "too perfect" - the very model of a clean-cut, country club Republican candidate. In retrospect, he's reminiscent of George H. W. Bush (Bush I) among the candidates.
In his remarks, Romney tried to paint himself as a change agent, reviewing an impressive "To Do" list of thus-far-intractable issues that he's anxious to tackle for us (the list was emblazoned on a large poster next to the dais). Then he took questions from the audience for about half an hour, stressing his successes as governor of nearby Massachusetts, working as a Republican with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.
Romney also insisted that, as a fellow "outsider," he would be the Republican best able to defeat Barak Obama. (This is a notable change from the approach of Republican candidates heretofore, who have seemed almost to salivate at the prospect of facing Hillary Clinton. The only reference Mitt made to Clinton was an off-handed dismissal of what he called "Hillary-Care"; i.e., Democratic proposals that would "put the government in charge of your health care.")
Once the rally was over, we ran as fast as we could to our car, so as not to get stuck at the wrong end of the dead-end road we were parked on. We managed to get out without too much trouble.
From Salem, we headed into downtown Manchester, where most of the "action" is each night during primary season. At this point in the campaign, Manchester really is like a carnival, with roving bands of supporters of one candidate or another milling about, waving signs and accosting citizens. We headed for the Raddison Hotel, the media nerve center for the primaries.
Attached to the Raddison is a convention/exhibition building called "The Center of NH." Entering there first, we immediately saw Pat Buchanan (winner of the 1996 NH Republican primary) speaking to a large audience as part of a local radio talk show. A little further along the corridor, Tim Russert (host of "Meet the Press") was being interviewed by a local TV reporter. We also passed the glassed-in room from which XM Satellite Radio's "POTUS 08" channel (devoted to the presidential campaign) was broadcasting. At the end of the corridor, ABC News had a huge room, cordoned off from the public.
Once inside the hotel, we found the set for Chris Matthews' MSNBC show, "Hardball," set up in the lobby. When we arrived, Matthews was on the air, talking with NBC's White House reporter, David Gregory, and NBC's Political Director, Chuck Todd.
Down the hall from "Hardball," former Senator Mike Gravel (a minor Democratic presidential candidate), clad in a blue denim shirt and no tie, was chatting with a couple of people and drinking coffee from a cardboard cup. Beyond him, at the end of the corridor, NBC had a large area, like ABC's, not open to the public.
After watching "Hardball" for a few minutes (without being able to hear much of what was being said), we headed back to our hotel (and dinner at the Chili's restaurant next door), to watch the pundits on the TV in our room.
Another great day on the campaign trail!