Attention Turns to New Hampshire With the Iowa caucuses behind them, presidential candidates head to New Hampshire for some last-minute campaigning. Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving and Kevin Landrigan, senior political reporter at the Nashua Telegraph, discuss Tuesday's primaries.
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Attention Turns to New Hampshire

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Attention Turns to New Hampshire

Attention Turns to New Hampshire

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. And what a day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick.

We'll go to New Hampshire. Its presidential primary is just four days away. And Iowa, where last night caucus-goers reshaped the American political landscape.

Mr. MIKE HUCKABEE (Former Republican Governor, Arkansas; Presidential Candidate): A new day is needed in American politics.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): If we had the courage to reach for it.

Mr. HUCKABEE: Just like a new day is needed in American government.

BRAND: Last night's big winners, Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrat Barack Obama. We'll hear more voices throughout the show today - the candidates and the people they persuaded.

CHADWICK: First though, to New Hampshire and NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving, who joins us from our studios in Manchester.

Ron, thank you for being on the program today.

In a moment we're going to talk with a few locals reporter, Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph, and New Hampshire's Republican State Party chair.

First though, to you and this question. After Iowa, is Barack Obama the new frontrunner for the Democrats?

RON ELVING: In a sense he is. But Hillary Clinton is still leading in the national polls. Hillary Clinton is still technically leading in the New Hampshire polls. She is going to fight for her life politically over the next several days. No one should count her or her husband and their appeal here in this state out. And no one should assume that just because Barack Obama has created this enormous mojo in Iowa, that that can be reproduced in New Hampshire over a very short period of time when he hasn't spent anywhere near the same amount of time here or campaigned here the way he did there and when we don't know whether or not he can inspire the sort of first-time participation by young people that he did in the state of Iowa.

BRAND: What do the polls say, Ron, about Obama and Clinton? Where are they?

ELVING: Clinton still has a lead of several points - a substantial enough lead to be outside the margin of error. She would still be officially the frontrunner here as of this morning. But of course that was polls were taken before the full impact of this enormous - and I must say, even world-reverberating event that took place in Iowa among the Democrats.

If that kind of enormous fresh interest infects New Hampshire the way that it did in Iowa, then four or five points in a poll taken earlier this week will be meaningless. And in that sense, of course, he could overwhelm her with that energy.

BRAND: Ron, well, it's not just the Democrats who had a world-reverberating event. What about Mike Huckabee?

ELVING: Mike Huckabee has created a new moment for that portion of the Republican Party, not just in Iowa, but nationally, that feels that it was brought into the party to deliver a new consciousness of social issues. I'm talking not just about evangelical Christians, but people who are interested in social issues primarily, more than economic issues, more even than issues of national security.

And these voters have provided the majorities that Republicans have enjoyed when Republicans have been in power, either in Congress or in presidential elections. They were told this year that this was going to be a different kind of election, that this was going to be a national security election driven by the war on terror, and that another kind of candidate - probably a Rudy Giuliani or perhaps a John McCain - was going to be the party nominee because this was a time in which those issues had to preeminent. And their issues were going to go to the back of the bus.

Those voters in Iowa turned out in huge numbers. And of that number they voted overwhelmingly for Mike Huckabee. That's why he is suddenly on the map. And we'll see to what degree that particular element of the Republican Party expresses itself here in New Hampshire and some of the other states voting in January.

BRAND: NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving on the ground in Manchester, New Hampshire. Thanks for joining us.

ELVING: Thank you both.

CHADWICK: And now to reporter Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph. The Washington Post calls him one of the top political reporters in the state. And we called him to ask how much New Hampshire cares about what Iowans think.

Mr. KEVIN LANDRIGAN (Nashua Telegraph): New Hampshire doesn't always go as Iowa goes. If it did, we would have had Dick Gephardt as the Democratic nominee. Of course we had Mike Dukakis. Sometimes New Hampshire does follow Iowa's example. I think the results in Iowa tell very different stories in the two races. Certainly Barack Obama's triumphant victory on the Democratic side really increases the chances for him to make an insurgent upset over Hillary Rodham Clinton here in New Hampshire.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee is not going to win the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. He did an incredible job in Iowa with the support of evangelical Christians. The electorate here is very different. He has spent a fair amount of time here, but the race is really between Mitt Romney and John McCain. And what began a few months ago really for Mitt Romney as a regal coronation in New Hampshire is now a street fight to the death.

CHADWICK: Kevin, what are the events over the next four days that are going to make a difference in New Hampshire beginning with - I think there are debates tomorrow night, right?

Mr. LANDRIGAN: That's correct. There are back-to-back debates at St. Anselm's College on Saturday night, 90 minutes long. This is also the first debate, Alex, of any kind, I believe, in which the field has been narrowed. So for example, on the Democratic side, there were only four candidates who will participate - John Edwards, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson. The debates are going to be critical. There is also Sunday evening. There's a debate on Fox between only five Republican candidates, and that also should be very pivotal in this election as well. All the Democrats, except for John Edwards, tonight will be speaking to the Hundred Club in Milford, which is the largest fundraiser the New Hampshire Democratic Party has every year.

BRAND: Kevin, what about John Edwards? If he doesn't win or place at least second in New Hampshire, what happens to him?

Mr. LANDRIGAN: It's really difficult for him to go on past New Hampshire if he doesn't get a first or second place showing here. He's got to elbow his way into the conversation here. He was resilient in Iowa and came out with a very credible showing.

But as you know, the media is only able to handle so many stories at one time. And right now this looks like a Clinton versus Obama classic.

It's hard for him without a victory to say to his supporters I've got the staying power in order to compete in the more than 20 states that will vote on Super Tuesday in February.

BRAND: All right. Kevin Landrigan, thank you for joining us.

Mr. LANDRIGAN: Thank you, Madeleine. Thank you, Alex.

BRAND: Kevin Landrigan is a political reporter with the Nashua Telegraph.

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