Candidates Campaign Nonstop Before Primary

Sen. Barack Obama at a rally in Clarement, N.H.

hide captionDemocratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois addresses a rally in the gymnasium of Stevens High School in Clarement, N.H., on Monday.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Sen. John McCain with his wife, Cindy.

hide captionGOP contender Sen. John McCain of Arizona speaks, as his wife, Cindy, looks on at a "The Mac Is Back" rally in Keene, N.H.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Primer on the N.H. Primary

• Residents can register and vote on primary day.

• Independent voters make up the single largest voting block of the state's electorate: 370,118 out of 827,701 voters.

• Roughly 30 percent of the state's eligible voters participated in the 2004 primary.

• Independents can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary.

Change has become the mantra of choice for both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, as each tries to cement their footholds amongst New Hampshire's large number of Independent voters ahead of the state's primaries Tuesday.

Polls show this theme may be paying off, at least for Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois. A WMUR/CNN released Sunday shows Obama leading among New Hampshire's Democratic primary voters by 10 percentage points over rival New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. The same poll lists former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson trailing Clinton for the third and fourth place slots, with 16 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

On the Republican side, a USA Today/Gallup poll shows Arizona Sen. McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney locked in a tight contest, 34 percent to 30 percent.

Nonstop Campaigning

All of the candidates have been going nonstop with rallies, debates, speeches and door-to-door campaigning in the short four-day window between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries. In some spots, the campaign entourages and accompanying press outnumber New Hampshire residents.

Clinton stepped up her attacks on Obama by questioning his record on Iraq, but she also became emotional Monday at a Portsmouth cafe when a woman asked how she remained upbeat.

"It's not easy. I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do," Clinton said. "I just don't want to see us fall backward."

Obama continued to strike an optimistic tone at rallies filled with independent voters and students, while Edwards embarked on another marathon bus tour, as he did in Iowa, with his wife, Elizabeth.

As for the Republicans, McCain attended more than seven rallies Monday and emphasized his close bond to New Hampshire residents, who helped him win the state's 2000 primary, defeating George W. Bush.

For his part, Romney stood before a giant to-do list in Nashua, N.H., to show that he was a proven manager.

The surprise winner of the Iowa caucuses, Mike Huckabee, tried to sway voters with tales about his rural upbringing and with his economic record as the former governor of Arkansas.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson participated in Sunday's Fox News Republican debate, while former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has scheduled campaign stops in Hudson, Derry and Manchester.

Reshaping Messages

In the wake of the Iowa caucuses, several candidates tweaked their messages.

Romney called himself an outsider, saying "Washington needs fundamental top-to-bottom change. Just sending the same people to Washington, but in different chairs, is not going to result in a different outcome."

McCain lashed out at Romney during Fox News' Republican forum in New Hampshire on Sunday, when Romney tried to suggest McCain was one of only two Republican senators who had voted against the Bush tax cuts. McCain responded by noting that he has done other things to save U.S. taxpayers money.

"Look, ask Jack Abramoff, who's in prison today — a guy who was a corrupt lobbyist — and his friends if I haven't cut spending," McCain said. "Ask the Air Force and Boeing, where I saved $2 billion ... by fighting against a bogus Air Force tanker deal. I have a record of saving billions for the American taxpayers."

On the campaign trail, Huckabee cast himself as the guy next door, rather than focus on an evangelical base, as he did in Iowa. (New Hampshire has much fewer evangelicals.)

"When people sit around their dinner tables at night, they feel the effect of $3-a-gallon gasoline. They feel the effect of double-digit inflation on their health care costs," he said. "If that's populism, then I'm guilty, because I think if you understand the struggle of a lot of American families, our party had better wake up to that. If we don't, we're going to lose."

Meanwhile, Clinton tried to reinvigorate her campaign by weaving the concept of change into her standard stump speeches, which had been heavy with references to her political experience. She also urged New Hampshire voters to "elect a doer, not a talker."

Edwards cast himself as the underdog, waging a war against two well-funded celebrity candidates, Obama and Clinton.

Looking for a Boost

New Hampshire will be critical ground for all the candidates. Clinton and Romney — who have spent millions of dollars on their campaigns and have sizeable war chests — could use a win in the state to re-energize their presidential bids. Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, Clinton told NPR, she will continue to campaign through the primaries on Feb. 5.

But if Obama succeeds in New Hampshire as he did in Iowa, it could make a comeback a more towering challenge for Clinton, especially since he is expected to do well in South Carolina's upcoming primary.

Huckabee also is expected to do well in South Carolina, with its strong evangelical voting base.

Make-Up of New Hampshire Voters

New Hampshire voters differ greatly from those in Iowa.

For starters, more people participate in the New Hampshire primary. In 2000, the last time both parties held primaries there, 238,206 Republicans and 154, 639 Democrats voted. The same year in Iowa, only 145,000 people turned out to caucus.

New Hampshire also keeps its polling locations open all day, so residents can vote whenever it's convenient — unlike the Iowa caucuses' prescribed evening hours.

And unlike in Iowa, New Hampshire's independent voters can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries, making them the much-coveted voters in this race.

From NPR staff reports.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: