Archive for the ‘New Hampshire Primary’ Category

Personal Memories of Campaign 2008

November 6, 2008
I first met Barack Obama at a sparsely attended press conference for Deval Patrick in October 2006. I saw him electrify an audience at the JFK Library and witnessed his first big appearance in New Hampshire in early December. I was there in Concord when Obama stood by his vow to meet the president of Iran during his first year in office. “We don’t need Bush-Cheney Lite,” he said as the crowd erupted in cheers. Even when this became an issue in the debates with McCain, nobody told McCain Obama ever said that.
I heard him implore Massachusetts to vote for him with Caroline Kennedy and Ted Kennedy at his side the night before the primary. He lost but he did not lose his cool.
I saw his last appearance with foreign policy aide Samantha Power. Obama seemed to love her energy but his staffers kept reeling her in.
I was one of the few writers to spend an extended period of time with Joe Biden, who gave me time after a book talk at Borders in downtown Boston. In an odd juxtaposition from four years earlier, I waited for Biden with the BPPA’s leadership team.
I attended scores of Hillary Clinton speeches and watched her campaign of inevitability devolve into desperation. I saw her fight back as the NH primary approached. I was in the room when two goons got up during one of her speeches shouting “Iron My Shirt! Iron My Shirt!”
I covered the Pennsylvania primary before Obama had figured out how to capture the votes of blue collar whites (or before the economy entirely went south.) I saw a Bill Clinton, reduced to giving 25 minute speeches in out-of-the-way venues, rev up the crowd in Millvale, PA. I interviewed Senator Casey of Pennsylvania who assured me Obama would win over enough Catholic voters to become president.
On the Republican side, I began by following Mitt Romney around New Hampshire. I saw Rudy Giuliani take brief interest and lose it in the Granite State. While he started to resonate in July, his big tour across Southern New Hampshire was a bust. The lasting image is of his gaggle of stilettoed press aides shoeing away the media, including David Broder who subsequently slammed Giuliani in the Washington Post.
McCain began his presidential campaign in Portsmouth at a highly orchestrated event right on the river with just one problem. The t.v. cameras could not shoot over the big speakers McCain’s people had set up. I called around NH when McCain hit his low point. McCain would win NH on his own, his supporters said. And they were right. I was with McCain the night he won NH and killed the campaign of Mitt Romney. The campaign blared Chuck Berry’s “Go Johnny Go!” How is this guy going to compete with Obama and his U2 “City of Blinding Light?” I thought.
I was there in Denver when Obama made everything in his campaign bigger and pulled it off.

John McCain: Back to NH

June 10, 2008

“When Senator McCain takes the stage for a town meeting at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, N.H., Thursday, his performance will serve two purposes. First, it will represent an effort to win a vital swing state. Second, a return to a town meeting style of campaigning, where candidates respond to questions from voters for a prolonged period of time, could help him perfect a vital tactic of being able to answer tough, surprising questions.”

McCain will need to do something other than set-piece pieces to compete with Obama.

Read more here in my New York Sun column.

A comment of Michael Castaldo who is involved with the advocacy group ONE came too late for my column. One is an international anti-poverty and anti-aids campaign. From his perch in New Hampshire, Castaldo saw more of all the candidates than almost anybody during the last year. I should point out that Castaldo attended Democratic and Republican events throughout last year and had one agenda item: spreading awareness and support for his non-partisan group.

Castaldo: “I believe that John not only enjoys ‘town halls’ but uses them as a reasearch tool…When we first met I was pretty sure he knew very little about ONE. So he listened and learned. The rest is history, at almost every stop he let us introduce the shanty town to the town halls of new hampshire and the 2008 presidential race. He has added the gravitas that all the rock stars and activists could never achieve.

At his last town hall before the primary he again passed me the mic; the only difference was that the ACT UP people had showed up and tried to embarras him by demanding more funding for AIDS in Africa. They had interrupted 4 times. When I finally had the mic I was almost in tears – for the last year he had done more to help our cause than any of the candidates from either party. So it was up to me to explain that to the crowd and additionally plug ONE.

If there were any ‘undecideds’ in the crowd before, they were not at the end. He truly thrives off the interaction between the crowds desire for answers, and this meeting was a prime example. There was one ACT UP member that had avoided getting thrown out and when he handed her the mic she had very little to charge him with, i had answered all he questions and she was left to mumble about how PEPFAR was a good thing and she was glad he supported it… John then said ‘I think you have your answers’ to her and ‘thank you all for coming’ to the rest of us. The crowd leapt to its feet and a thunderous round of applause ensued. It lasted for a estimated 10 minutes. He had listended to me about ONE and trusted me – I came through and was there to defend his record when he needed it. He won that hall and two days later won the primary that would carry him to be the Republican nominee for president.”

Gitell on NECN

January 11, 2008

Here are the links to my appearances on NECN NewsNight with Jim Braude last night and after the Iowa caucuses.

WTKK Appearance With Michael Graham: @ 10:20 A.M.

January 9, 2008

I will be on the air with Michael Graham shortly after 10:20 a.m. on 96.9 FM-Talk. The subject is, of course, the New Hampshire Primary.

Road After NH Primary

January 9, 2008

I spotted an ebullient Senator Lindsey Graham in the lobby of the Nashua Crown Plaza last night where John McCain was holding his election night fete. I wanted some insight about the race moving into South Carolina, and Graham agreed to speak with me. He motioned me to sit with him in one of two adjacent chairs, the kind that Middle Eastern kings and “presidents” sit in when visited by foreign diplomats. Graham was charming gracious with me and the scores of reporters calling his blackberry. 

He mapped out McCain’s strategy in South Carolina post New Hampshire, explaining that McCain had won the support of the state’s head of the National Guard, an elected position in the state. Understand this. There is a two star general in South Carolina, who needs to run for reelection. This general has endorsed McCain and will use his political organization on McCain’s behalf. “John uses the words ‘win’ and ‘victory,'” Mr. Graham, who described Mr. McCain as a Reaganite figure who could weave the Republican coalition back together, said. “John is the soldier’s candidate.”

Also interesting was what Patrick Buchanan told me about Rudolph Giuliani’s novel strategy of foregoing early contests to focus on Florida and the February 5 states. “You’re going to go 0 for 4 and win the thing?” Buchanan asked. “If he were my strategist, he’d be sleeping with the fishes,” he added.

Read more here.

Hillary Comes Back

January 9, 2008

I am sitting in the McCain press room watching Hillary Clinton speak about her extraordinary comeback victory against Barack Obama.

Wow. Everybody got this one wrong. Even my sources in the Clinton camp believed she would lose by at least nine points yesterday.

Part of this is a tribute to Clinton’s field organization, which I have written about at length this year.

But part of it can be attributed to her not giving up.

NH Republican Primary: Could be a good night for McCain

January 9, 2008

I’m not going to report numbers I’m hearing from campaigns. But I think I can say this: It could be a very good night for McCain and not so good for Romney.

New Hampshire Primary: Salem Snapshot

January 8, 2008

I’ve been here since the morning. The balmy weather has magnified an already intense interest in the contest.  

One of the polling places I hit was Salem Town Hall. Salem is a community of some 30,000 adjacent to Massachusetts. “It’s very busy,” Salem’s Town Clerk, Barbara Lessard told me. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I run out of ballots.”

The town, an outlying bedroom community for Boston, has almost 8000 independents, 4900 Democrats and 5200 Republicans. The absentee ballots, of which there were 300, broke largely Democatic, according to Lessard.

The conventional wisdom is that independents break for either Democratically or Republican. My sense, this time, is that both parties will see a major increase in the number of voters, including independents.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Slug It Out in New Hampshire

January 8, 2008

Today was one of the most extraordinary days I’ve spent covering politics.

I started the day in a crowd of some 400 outside of Lebanon’s City Hall, the fire marshal having limited entry. Many politicians freak out when they realize potential voters are going to go home disappointed.

Not Obama. He grabbed a hand-held microphone, climbed some stone steps, addressed the crowd and then shook hands for 15 minutes. It was a spectacular move.

I missed Hillary when she welled up but saw her in Salem and at her evening pep rally in Manchester. A low point here was getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic leading to the Highlander for the event. I left my car in front of a Chinese restaurant and walked a mile through the snow. I got near the site just ahead of the Clinton motorcade, but then heard sirens. I jumped onto the median strip, waded through calf-high snow and saw Clinton speed by accompanied by police.

At the rally, Hillary Clinton shouted and hollered. Her Chicago accent appeared to come back and she seemed to have a hint of Mayor Daley, the elder in her voice.Here’s my news report.

New Voters May Put Obama Over the Top

January 7, 2008

I started covering the New Hampshire Primary in 2000. Since that time, the Granite State has gained 207,000 new voters. A new UNH study contends that 23.5% of the primary electorate will be new. In speaking with political experts and demographers, I’ve come to the conclusion that many of these new voters will cast ballots for Obama. Read more here.