In New Hampshire, Every Handshake Counts Presidential hopefuls who visit the Granite State must navigate an obstacle course of pancakes, cow pies and house parties. Of course, all of that won't guarantee votes, but opting out is not an option for those with an eye on the primary.
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In New Hampshire, Every Handshake Counts

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In New Hampshire, Every Handshake Counts

In New Hampshire, Every Handshake Counts

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Every tourist can benefit from some sort of travel guide, even if that tourist wants to be president. A pack of Republican hopefuls are spending the summer visiting fairs in Iowa and diners in New Hampshire, and so we are taking you on audio tours of the early voting states.

Today, NPR's Robert Smith tells us about the essential sites of New Hampshire for a campaign vacation.

U: This is New Hampshire's 95.7.

U: Playing the best variety of yesterday and today.

ROBERT SMITH: All right. Up and at them candidates, the campaign day starts early in New Hampshire. Pancake breakfasts do not eat themselves. On our tour today, we're bringing along a political scientist...

P: Andy Smith. I'm the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

SMITH: ...and an honest-to-goodness New Hampshirite.

BLOCK: My name is Dick Charpentier. I won't say I've lived here all my life because it isn't over yet.

SMITH: New Hampshire's humor, get used to it.


BLOCK: (Singing) Holiday road, oh-oh-oh, oh- oh-oh...

SMITH: Okay. Our first stop is Portsmouth.

BLOCK: It's not port's mouth. It's Portsmouth.

SMITH: Ah, hear that, candidates? Portsmouth. Portsmouth, home of The Friendly Toast Diner.

The main objective of any campaign is to find a captive audience. And diners in New Hampshire are perfect. The Friendly Toast makes a great campaign backdrop. It has kitschy art from the '50s on tropical fruit- colored walls. But please, please, the owner Melissa Jasper begs you, call in advance.

BLOCK: Most of these things are not pleasant at all. They bring in a lot of press, and they take up a lot of space, and they bother customers and, you know, they act political.

SMITH: You're not exactly welcome here. So, candidates, figure out in advance who is going to pay the bill. Tip your waitress well, and order something simple.

BLOCK: Always something non-messy. Nobody wants to get cheese or tomato sauce on their mustache, you know?

SMITH: Alrighty, candidates, time to move on. Next stop in a perfect politician's day in New Hampshire is a parade.


BLOCK: (Singing) Jack be nimble. Jack be quick...

SMITH: It's a short drive away, but Professor Smith says that's what makes New Hampshire a political paradise.

P: You can reach two-thirds of the population within 45 minutes of Manchester.

SMITH: But you really do need to start practicing those place names. Mr. Charpentier.

BLOCK: Like Winnipesaukee and Massabesic and Amoskeag. I suppose if you had some kind of an Indian background, it might help.

SMITH: We will stick to an easy name: North Hampton.


SMITH: When it comes to parades, the smaller the town, the better. This one spans only a couple of blocks, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is already marching in this one. But that's okay. She's showing proper New Hampshire parade etiquette.

Cubmaster Peter Philbrook describes it this way.

BLOCK: Play it cool. You know, I wouldn't be riding in a car. I'd be walking with the crowd and waving. And that's what I would be doing.

SMITH: Repeat after me: Most people do not come to a parade to see the politicians. Andy Smith says candidates should remember their real audience.

P: Make sure you tell WMUR, which is the only TV station in the state, that you're going to be there. Even though this is a state which has retail politics, most people get their information about what's going on in politics from television.

SMITH: TV may get you the votes. But to raise money and to get endorsements, you do have to show up in person. So, candidates, our final stop for the day is a famed New Hampshire house party.


SMITH: We're heading to the Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, New Hampshire, home to Doug and Stella Scamman. All the politically connected Republicans throw these parties, but the Scammans are biggies. They hosted events for both President Bushes, Bob Dole, Dan Quayle.

Stella Scamman says that it's important for candidates to relax a little when they go to a house party. And don't haul in your whole campaign.

BLOCK: One candidate came in one time with this huge, huge bus up our driveway that wiped out some of the branches off the tree. And we said, you know, come in the normal way; by foot.

SMITH: That was former senator and movie star Fred Thompson, by the way. So come in by foot, but watch out where you're stepping.

Doug Scamman says when a farm has cows, you have to know the proper protocol when you, you know, step in it.

BLOCK: You smile and walk through the grass and let it wear off.

SMITH: I know that this does not always seem like the most dignified way to pick a president, an obstacle course filled with pancakes and parades and cow pies. But Professor Andy Smith says get used to it.

P: If you don't play that game, it's not so much that you're not going to reach the voters. It's that the press and people will talk about how you don't want to get out and meet real people. And it's the perception of not meeting real people that's more important than actually meeting voters.

SMITH: Got that, candidates? Shaking a guy's hand will not get you his vote. But not shaking his hand, that's the way to lose New Hampshire.

Robert Smith, NPR News.

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