Close New Hampshire Races Will Help Set '04 Stage
Presidential Hopefuls Visit to Support Local Candidates, Energize Activists
[By Eric M. Appleman -- Posted November 4, 2002]  New Hampshire is a state which normally comes to national and world attention every four years because of its first-in-the nation presidential primary.  Indeed Democratic presidential hopefuls have already made numerous visits to lay the groundwork for possible 2004 White House bids. 

This year, the state's U.S. Senate race pitting Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) against Rep. John Sununu (R) is one of the closest in the country; the outcome could determine which party controls the Senate.  Both U.S. House races are also competitive.  New Hampshire could be in for a repeat of Election Night 2000, when the Republican ticket won the state by 7,211 votes out of 569,081 cast (1.27 percent), narrowly securing its four electoral votes, but the networks did not call the state for Bush until after midnight. 

What happens in New Hampshire and across the nation on November 5 will in significant measure shape the playing field upon which the 2004 presidential campaign is conducted.  If Republicans are able to hold the U.S. House and gain control of the U.S. Senate, President Bush will have a much easier time implementing his agenda, and the 2004 election will essentially be a referendum on the Republican record.  If divided government continues, the picture will be rather more murky. 

Turnout will be a key factor, and both parties are going all out to mobilize supporters.  The state's voters have endured a cascade of television ads and auto calls.  One caller to a CNN program said that the number of calls has prompted her to consider not voting. 

Targeting is vital.  Since the 2000 election, Democrats have purged their voter file of outdated information, in the process raising the phone match rate from 49.6 percent to 68.1 percent.  "If we had [then] the file we have now, I think Gore would have won New Hampshire," stated Ken Robinson, executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.  Democrats have fourteen regional field offices around the state.  Todd Elmer of National Stonewall Democrats has set up shop in the Democrats' Manchester headquarters and is focusing on turning out Democrats who only vote occasionally, so-called "Lazy D's."

U.S. Senate
Gov.Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Rep. John Sununu (R)
Ken Blevens (L)

1st Congressional District
Martha Fuller Clark (D)
Jeb Bradley (R)

Dan Belforti (L)

2nd Congressional District
Katrina Swett (D)
Rep. Charlie Bass (R)

Rosalie Babiarz (L)

Mark Fernald (D)
 Craig Benson (R)

John Babiarz (L)
Interest groups are weighing in.  Groups such as the Club for Growth and United Seniors Association are running television and radio ads in support of John Sununu.  The Sierra Club, which claims over 5,000 members in New Hampshire, has picked up on a recent comment that Sununu made about the Prudhoe Bay pipeline.  Appearing on a talk radio show, Sununu stated that "...the bear population enjoys walking on it because it gives them a better vantage point as a scavenger and a predator."  Sierra Club activists have shown up at some events in polar bear costumes.  A humorous mailing shows a couple of polar bears near a pipeline with the caption "Norman, I don't care what John E. Sununu says, there's no way I'm getting up there."  Sierra Club volunteers were also to distribute 5,000 GOTV door hangers in Portsmouth and Dover (1st congressional district). (ad1, ad2)

Some Republicans are concerned that disgruntled supporters of Sen. Bob Smith (R) could have an impact in the Senate race.  Sununu defeated two-term incumbent Smith by 53.4 percent to 44.6 percent in the September 10 primary.  A Smith write-in effort has garnered some attention; there is also a Libertarian, Ken Blevens, on the ballot.

New Hampshire's two House races are likewise interesting.  Sununu's Senate run has opened up the 1st district seat.  Martha Fuller Clark (D), making her second bid for the seat, faces Jeb Bradley (R).  In the 2nd district, Katrina Swett (D) is challenging incumbent Charlie Bass (R).  Bass was first elected in 1994, the year of the Contract with America, defeating Swett's husband Dick Swett. 

Presidential Hopefuls Offer Help
Rallying the troops: Sen. Joe Lieberman stumps for 2nd district congressional candidate Katrina Swett and local candidates in Keene on October 14, 2002.  Sen. John Edwards greets Katrina Swett and supporters in Nashua on October 19, 2002.
Into this environment, 2004 Democratic hopefuls have come offering, to varying degrees, encouragement and financial support.  House Democratic Leader Peter Burling observed during a recent visit by Sen. Joe Lieberman:

Here's one of my candidates over here; she is runnig for office.  And Joe Lieberman comes in and talks about her as a candidate, and says we need her in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.  What a charge that is.  I mean I still think it's a charge and I've been doing it for twenty years.  It's a huge pick me up.  And it's that kind of thing that will allow her to do the next fifteen houses door to door or stand visibility in a cold wind.  They're all [the 2004 presidential hopefuls] doing it.  The only person we're not seeing is Gore, which is wierd.
Between January 1, 2001 and November 5, 2002, President Bush and eight prospective Democratic candidates made 46 total visits, spending 66 days politicking in the Granite State.  Vermont Gov. Howard Dean led the Democratic pack with 18 visits totaling 21 days.  Four possible candidates--Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman--put in nine days.  Former Vice President Gore made just one visit to the Granite State.  (Gore cancelled a planned second visit after Sen. Paul Wellstone's death).  Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle did not set foot in the state.  President Bush made three brief visits.

Nationally, Democrats have sought to make an issue of Bush's handling of the economy.  In recent appearances, two of the 2004 prospects sounded similar themes.  Sen. Joe Lieberman, speaking to campaign staffers and volunteers at the Manchester Democratic coordinated campaign office on October 14, said, "And you know we elect presidents to lead us on more than one thing at a time don't we?  We pay 'em to lead us on a couple of things at a time, and the lack of leadership that President Bush has given on questions related to our economy is really hurting people."  Sen. John Edwards, speaking to about 450 people at the NHDP's Jefferson-Jackson dinner on October 18, said, "This great nation can do two things at once.  We don't have to choose between military power and econmic prosperity...We're going to say to this president: Ignoring your responsibilities at home because you're focused on our responsibilities abroad isnít good enough for America.  Your job description actually requires you to do two things at the same time."

Democratic presidential hopefuls have also poured financial resources into the state.  Most notably, Sen. Edwards' New American Optimists leadership PAC has made close to $200,000 in direct and in-kind contributions to New Hampshire political committees and candidates according to the latest available financial filings; over half that has gone directly to the New Hampshire Democratic Party, but the PAC has also put money into individual state legislative races and even made a $500 contribution to Dane Auger for County Sheriff committee in Farmington. 

Education Funding is a Key Issue in Local Races
Education Funding in the Governor's Race: A Benson campaign banner carries the slogan "eliminate donor towns."  Inside Fernald headquarters is a prop from a photo op used to illustrate how Fernald's plan would "ax the property tax."
The issue of education funding has roiled New Hampshire politics for the past six years.  Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sen. Mark Fernald of Peterborough has made establishment of a 4-percent education income tax the cornerstone of his campaign.  Selling an income tax, particularly in New Hampshire, would appear to meet the dictionary definition of quixotic ("Caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals"--American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition), but Fernald has not shied from discussing his plan at every opportunity, presenting the matter as a question of fairness and noting that his plans will allow families to "ax the property tax."   Fernald trails the Republican nominee, businessman Craig Benson, by a significant margin in polls.  Republicans are firm in their opposition to an income tax.  "We don't have an income tax; we don't have a sales's important we don't lose our New Hampshire advantage," said New Hampshire Republican chairman John Dowd.

New Hampshire's 24-member Senate is one of the smallest upper chambers in the country.  Democrats have only had control of the Senate once in the past 86 years.  Republicans currently have a 13 to 11 majority; all 24 seats are up.  Sen. Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester, District 20) summed up the Democrats' prospects: "Hopefully we can get it to 12-12; that would be great.  That would be a great movement forward, but we've got to get our incumbents protected, and we've got some great candidates and hopefully they're going to succeed in this election."  D'Allesandro mentioned specifically the District 7 race in the center of the state pitting Dennis Kalob (D) against Bob Flanders (R) and the District 23 race on the coast where Maggie Hassan (D) is running against Russell Prescott (R).

New Hampshire's four hundred-seat House of Representatives is the third largest parliamentary body in the world, and all seats are up every two years.  According to House Democratic Leader Peter Burling, the Democratic caucus currently numbers 141 of the 400 House seats.  (Since Burling became Democratic Leader in 1996, the number has fluctuated between 110 and 157).  Burling points proudly to the 326 candidates Democrats are fielding in House races, and sees the possibility of improving on current numbers.  "We're at a unique point because redistricting has just reshaped our whole House structure, and for the first time in anybody's memory there are 210 seats being contested which have a Democratic performance of 50 percent or better," Burling stated.

Photos from New Hampshire, October 14-19, 2002
Sen. Joe Lieberman's Visit, October 14, 2002.
New Hampshire Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, October 18, 2002.
Sen. John Edwards' Visit, October 19, 2002.
Young Republicans' Bus Tour, October 19, 2002.

Copyright © 2002  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.