Straws in the Wind in New Hampshire

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New Hampshire, which guards its first-in-the-nation presidential primaries against other, similar elections like a civic-minded junkyard dog, has somehow let the Iowa caucuses steal much of its thunder. And not just the caucuses, either. Have you noticed the Ames Straw Poll in the last few election cycles? Ames is big, man. It is news, and big news, for whoever wins there. It is even news when a candidate decides, months in advance, to skip the Ames Straw Poll, as Sen. John McCain has done. It is even momentarily news when a candidate admits to an interviewer on national television, as McCain did, that he was unaware that no one who skipped the Ames Straw Poll has ever won the Iowa caucuses. I mean, when you can parlay the first voting in the caucuses with the most prestigious straw poll, held some 15 months before the actual election, you have combined marketeering with electioneering in a way that suggests New Hampshire should look to its laurels.

And what of the Hopkinton Straw Poll in New Hampshire? What’s that? You never heard of the Hopkinton Straw Poll? You never heard of Hopkinton? (Yeah, sure, rub it in.) Well, I am a resident of Manchester, New Hampshire, where we have sidewalks, electricity, indoor plumbing and, yes, big-city dwellers, we even have a rather busy little airport where roughly 4 million individual trips, going and coming, take place every year.

But nobody cares about our straw poll in Hopkinton, just a half-hour drive from the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. While Ames gets national coverage, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News doesn’t ask John McCain or any of the other candidates why they are skipping Hopkinton. And locally, the Amherst Fourth of July parade gets more news coverage in New Hampshire than the Hopkinton Straw Poll does.

So unless you were there, you probably missed it. On Saturday, July 7, 294 people cast ballots in the Straw Poll that was held by the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers as part of the organization’s annual picnic. Ron Paul received 182 of those votes. Rudolph the sawed-off RINO (Republican In Name Only) Giuliani was runner-up with 24 votes. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee cared enough to come, gave a rather good speech, shook a lot of hands, gave a lot of interviews and received half a dozen votes for his efforts. Mitt Romney, recently the governor of the neighboring state of Massachusetts and the occupant of a $10 million summer home in Wolfeboro, NH, picked up a few votes, though fewer than the ex-mayor of New York. The others were not there and it probably would not have mattered if they were.

Dr. Ron Paul was not there, either, but neither did that matter. He had made a previous commitment to address the Freedom Fest in Las Vegas, but that was okay. His hard-core followers were determined to vote for him if he had been anywhere other than China, Cuba, or Cambridge, Massachusetts. The candidate’s son, Dr. Rand Paul of Kentucky, made the trip, however, and made an impressive speech for his father.

The Manchester TV station, WMUR-TV, which owes much of its prosperity and its marvelous new facilities to revenues gained from the advertising paid for by candidates in the New Hampshire primaries, covered the event and interviewed Gov. Huckabee, Rand Paul and others. But there was no print media at all. The closest thing to print media coverage was a solitary blogger from Seacoast Online, which is owned by the Portsmouth Herald, a bland and predictably liberal daily on the New Hampshire seacoast. The statewide daily, The New Hampshire Union Leader/Sunday News missed the event altogether. Likewise the Concord "Monica" (one of Bill’s favorite newspapers), though Hopkinton abuts Concord and is well within the Monitor’s coverage area. Likewise all the other dailies and the Associated Press.

We are not surprised. New Hampshire has already hosted two pre-primary debates, one for the Republicans and one for the Democrats. Each "debate" lasted two hours without commercial interruption. Each was broadcast live from the campus of Saint Anselm College on our local ABC affiliate, WMUR-TV, and on the Cable News Network. Both were moderated by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. It was interesting that in four hours of questioning of 18 candidates (eight Democrats and 10 Republicans), very few questions were asked about issues that either libertarians or old-school conservatives would consider priority matters. No one asked Ron Paul, for example, how he would dismantle most of the federal government or how he would bring about the transformation of America’s foreign and military policies to reflect that "more humble" role for our nation that Texas Gov. George W. Bush talked about when campaigning for president in the year 2000.

Instead, we got questions about how the next president might utilize the talents of former President Bill Clinton or the current incumbent. Former Alaska Gov. Mike Gravel suggested he would send the Arkansas traveler traveling internationally. "He can take his wife with him," he suggested, much to the amusement of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who laughed heartily. "She’ll still be in the Senate." And Tom Tancredo, recalling that the president’s brain, Karl Rove, had instructed Tancredo never again to darken the door of the White House, said he would instruct George W. Bush to do the same.

The Republican candidates also were quizzed on Darwinism and whether they believed the evolutionists’ explanations of how we got here and why. As to the age of the earth and the days of creation, Gov. Huckabee, pastor of a church in Arkansas, confessed: "I don’t know. I wasn’t there." In other words, ask Bob Dole.

So they have conspired to exclude Ron Paul from the campaign in Ames, but Paul is no doubt making inroads there, anyway. There is a lot of old-style conservatism, as well as general anti-war sentiment in Iowa and Ron Paul is the only peace candidate on the Republican ballot. Other candidates say they are for peace, of course, even when proposing to nuke Iran for the temerity of wanting to have a nuke of its own. Ron Paul, appalled at the notion, wants peace the way President Eisenhower did.

"I think," Eisenhower said, "that the people want peace so much that one of these days, governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

Well, there you have it — Dwight Eisenhower and Ron Paul as "peaceniks." All they’ve been saying is, "Give peace a chance." Who knows?

It might work.

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.

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