It was pretty clear last Friday, Jan. 6, that things weren’t normal in downtown Manchester.
CBS News had erected what appeared to be a full studio in front of the Radisson in Manchester. Someone in a newt ? that’s the lizard ? costume stood with demonstrators outside Newt Gingrich’s campaign headquarters in Manchester. The Occupy movement had descended on the downtown as well. And cameramen were positioned at street crossings along Elm Street looking to capture the who’s who of politicos and candidates in the final rush. And all the craziness led to Tuesday’s vote.
By the time you read this, the media circus and the winner of the New Hampshire primary will be headed to South Carolina and beyond (along with the second- and third-place finishers who will claim the results a victory for their campaigns). Here’s a look back at a few moments from the final days of the first-in-the-nation primary.
• Love him or hate him, there is no denying Mitt Romney is the head of a campaign machine. Take Romney’s event on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Pinkerton Academy. Romney had New Hampshire’s own Kelly Ayotte warm up the crowd. Ayotte was once the establishment candidate, compared to alleged tea party candidate Ovide Lamontagne. While Ayotte and former Gov. John Sununu showcased the many Republican establishment types who support Romney, there was also an appearance by tea party darling South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. And what state is next in the primary process? South Carolina, of course.
• While Mitt Romney’s brothers-in-law were in attendance in Derry, Newt Gingrich’s daughters were in Manchester on Sunday night. Jackie Cushman and Kathy Lubbers made a pit stop at the Bridge Cafe in Manchester. The Bridge Cafe is much more popular during the morning hours, so there weren’t too many potential voters there for them to persuade. But the sisters did work those who were there and answered questions from the Hippo and a reporter from Denmark. Cushman said she longed for the debates between her father and President Barack Obama. She said both men wanted to inspire hope in the nation but her father had a track record of doing it. Cushman said she learned early that campaigns can get negative. She said Gingrich first ran for office when she was 7; he lost, and at school the next day an administrator told her he was happy her father lost. After that, she developed a thick skin.
• Democrats might not have had a horse in the New Hampshire primary, but they were taking shots at Republicans. On Friday, Jan. 6, the Democratic National Committee brought in Randy Johnson, who worked for the manufacturing plant Ampad in Indiana before Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s former company, took it over in the 1990s. Johnson alleges employees were laid off and treated poorly before Bain sold the company and made big bucks while leaving the company ready for bankruptcy.
“It’s not about jobs. It’s about wealth,” Johnson said in an interview with the Hippo last week. Johnson called Bain’s procedures a scheme to help the rich get richer.
• Texas Congressman Ron Paul and his wife apparently had a dicey campaign moment on Monday, Jan. 9. According to a statement from his national campaign chairman, Jesse Benton, Paul was attempting to hold an event at Moe Joe’s Diner in Manchester when more than 120 members of the media created a “mob-like” atmosphere that was unsafe for Paul, customers “and reporters themselves.”
“The campaign had planned to cover our normal degree of media interest, which is always ample. However, a significant increase in the press corps, largely driven by an influx of foreign journalists, exceeded all expectations,” Benton said in a statement. He added that Paul’s wife was shoved aside by one reporter and told to “get out of the way.”
According to the Drudge Report, perpetual presidential candidate Vermin Supreme dogged Paul during the failed campaign stop. The Hippo spotted Supreme in his car at a stop light last Friday, Jan. 6, at the corner of Elm and Merrimack streets.
•An article on mtv.com made a recent poetry night seem like a lyrical coronation of Ron Paul. Unfortunately, organizers of the event don’t see it that way. Mark Palos of Slam Free or Die put the event together on short notice because he was under the impression that MTV wanted a show in which poems were written in response to Saturday night’s debate. That is the event that happened; however, Palos believes MTV had other intentions and instead wanted to write a story about Ron Paul supporters and so MTV twisted what it could and ignored the rest. The poets plan to retaliate with some anti-MTV verse. Visit 2012nh.com to read more.
• For those keeping track, Rep. Frank Guinta ultimately chose not to endorse a candidate in the primary.
• An only-in-New Hampshire moment: A middle-aged man holding a 8 x 11 sign reading “Occupy” and wearing a red “Nixon” button approached two Hippo reporters last Friday, asked if they knew the downtown well and then followed up by asking if the reporters knew a good spot for a pedicure.
• Outside Newt Gingrich’s headquarters on Elm Street on Monday, Jan. 9, Occupy protestors, Ron Paul supporters and Vermin Supreme gathered, singing songs, waving signs and forcing the Gingrich folks to cancel a scheduled meet-and-greet with the candidate.
When asked why the event was canceled, Gingrich’s New Hampshire campaign manager, Andrew Hemingway, could only shake his head. But what he saw outside the glass windows were his headquarters’ sign hijacked by a neon laser that shot “Ron Paul 2012” onto the sign. Three police officers arrived to maintain order, though ultimately things never got out of control. Some passing automobiles on Elm Street seemed upset by the commotion, honking their horns out of frustration. The highlight of the night was the rap music blaring from a Paul supporter’s car, fresh with rhymes about Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. (Only-in-New Hampshire full disclosure: Reporter Adam Coughlin’s brother James Coughlin works for the Gingrich campaign.)
• File under “not exactly the whole picture”: The Washington Post’s website recently published a photo essay of Manchester that gets at the question of whether presidential candidates understand the hard times people are going through. Visit www.washingtonpost.com/politics/manchesters-other-political-story/2012/01/07/gIQAqTv5hP_gallery.html#photo=1 to see the essay, which focuses significant attention on a small section of the city known as “The Hollow” to highlight the city’s poverty-stricken residents. The essay also features several photos illustrating the city’s refugee population, though the piece doesn’t actually acknowledge that Manchester is a refugee-resettlement community (or any of the related complex problems). It’s worth noting that New Hampshire (and Hillsborough county) still has a lower unemployment rate than the rest of the nation.