I’m currently in New Hampshire, covering the primaries with a group of eight other reporters and editors from New York City’s ethic and community press (in all, I told, there’s something like 1,200 media people here). The trip’s been put on by New York Community Media Alliance as part of their 2008 Elections Fellowship. We’re fortunate to have a knowledgeable guide in Feet in Two Worlds' John Rudolph, who has been driving us around as we follow the candidates on the campaign trail.
Each candidate and their staff spent the weekend and Monday jumping from town to town, putting on last-ditch rallies, as they try and pick up last-minute votes, and decide the undecided. They’re not really saying anything new at this stage, except, perhaps, to refute a rival’s latest attack and launch one of their own.
Yesterday, we caught up with caught up with John McCain in Exeter, Mitt Romney in Bedford, and Barack Obama (pictured) in Concord. Some 1,500 people showed up for the Obama event. There was just 300 at McCain’s and maybe 500 at Romney’s. So, first things first, the Democratic candidates are getting a lot more attention than their Republican counterparts. (We were hoping to see Clinton too, but there was a mile-long line of car-traffic to get into her event.)
McCain was a little lackluster in his speech. He looked tired – it was one of seven rallies he was holding that day – and kept things brief. Still, there was the odd moment of fire: “I'll get Osama Bin Laden if I have to follow him to the gates of hell!” (It’s the kind of talk that sounds much more convincing coming from McCain, a war hero, than, say, our current president).
If McCain was folksy and homey, Romney, all polished, professional and dapper, was the opposite. He stressed how he his experiences as a successful businessman would help him get things done, and turn around a Washington “that is fundamentally broken.” (Washington being rotten at the core, and the need for a change in direction, were common talking points through all three speeches).
Obama's event, in a school gymnasium, was the most impressive. Even the build-up was electric. Dozens of volunteers, mostly teens and early-twenty somethings, danced, high-fived each other, and screamed Obama’s signature chant: "Fire it up!" "Ready to go!" A little farcical? Perhaps. But electric all the same. By the time Obama was introduced by his wife, the crowd (a younger, more fresh-faced lot than Romney or McCain’s turnouts) had been whipped into a frenzy. Obama talked at length about hope and change, themes central to his campaign. "We’re at a defining point in our history," he said. "The time for change is now." He also hit back at claims his policy ideas are vague and ambiguous.
Today is election day; the results are out tonight. For more, check out Talking Points Memo. According to the latest polls, Obama’s lead over Clinton is growing. The Republican primary is likely to be closer, although McCain is the favorite. We'll have more tomorrow.
Photo: J. Fergusson