In the next six days, Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will do in New Hampshire as the Tribunes did in Rome--don the white robe and humbly ask as many citizens as possible for their support.
Fresh from their victories in Monday's Iowa caucuses, the two frontrunners, Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore '69 arrived in Manchester early yesterday morning. The latest tracking polls show Arizona Senator John S. McCain with a slight lead over Bush and show Gore and Bradley with an equal number of supporters.
The primary is Feb. 1--and the final debate is tonight.
During this final stretch, Harvard Democrats and Republicans, along with supporters from around New Hampshire and Massachusetts, have braved the chilly weather to greet their candidates.
Late Monday night, vans carrying Massachusetts college students--most Bush supporters--began the hour-and-a-half trip to the Manchester airport. The Texas governor's staff rented an entire plane hangar and stocked it with sodas and pizza. To pump up the crowd, Jock Jams thumped in the background.
After Bush's plane touched down at 2 a.m, the candidate told his happy audience he was pleased with his Iowa showing of 41 percent. His staffers added that Bush would now focus on luring more conservative voters away from Steve Forbes and Alan L. Keyes '72
"Candidates plan campaign strategy around the Iowa caucus--it is part of
the dynamics of the campaign," said Marty Linsky, a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government. "But things won't change too much because of what happened in Iowa. New Hampshire has had a long history of being independent from Iowa."
Still, key Bush organizers say they hope Iowa's choice will resonate a half-a-country away.
"I think it'll give us a little bump," said Massachusetts Governor A. Paul Cellucci.
College students, many of whom will spend the next six days in the Granite State, may prove to be the most accessible targets for the candidates. Harvard Students for Gore will have at least a dozen students in the state in the next few days. About 25 Bradley backers are scheduled to be there as well.
The Bush campaign has rented an airplane hangar near Manchester, planted dozens of cots, and set up residence for the young supporters who will work the phones and drive the elderly to the polls.
McCain's campaign has also set up space for volunteers to bunk, and McCain supporters at Harvard said they will have students in the state throughout the week.
Reaching Out to Voters
All the Republican candidates will try to personally meet as many people as possible in the next week, said C. David Corbin, a political scientist who teaches at the University of New Hampshire. Bush has the most to gain, he says.
"The great difficulty that George W. Bush had in 1999 in the state is that he never wore the white robe," he said, referring to the practice of meeting the voters in person. "John McCain did, and in doing so, propelled himself to the front of the pack."
Looking Toward Feb. 1
Forbes, visibly buoyed by his 30 percent showing in the caucuses, told supporters yesterday he hoped to ride the momentum to an even bigger victory. Advisers hinted that he will begin a new television advertising campaign aimed at these voters.
"New Hampshire is known as a conservative state nationwide," said Corbin. "We're not conservative as much as we are libertarian."
Keyes told The Crimson last week that he wouldn't play the prediction game for New Hampshire. But Monday night--after coming in third in the caucuses--his tone was different.
"I'm sure our supporters will take
heart from this," Keyes said.
Keyes' campaign officials have said in the past that they expect a third-place finish in New Hampshire, although polls show him in fourth place.
With a field of only two candidates, the Democrats have a different challenge ahead of them, Corbin said.
New Hampshire Democrats cast their ballots for the maverick centrist Democrat Paul Tsongas in 1992 and tend not to favor the candidate who has the most support of the Democratic Party.
"Within the liberal Democratic soul, there's something knocking on it that says, 'I don't want to be too establishment,'" Corbin said.
So the same voters who supported a centrist in 1992 could now support a left-of-center candidate, he says.
Bradley's advisers said the candidate plans to stick to his core themes of health care and campaign finance reform, which play well with New Hampshire independents.
His Harvard supporters say they don't think Gore's two-to-one margin in Iowa of victory will matter much to the independent voters in the state.
"Gore said it best after finishing dead last, when he said that the Iowa
caucus is an arcane process that produces bizarre results," said Luke P. McLoughlin '02, president of Harvard Students for Bradley. "Everyone's
attention is on New Hampshire."