From the trail in New Hampshire, the highest stakes yet

I’m in New Hampshire covering campaign events this weekend. Later tonight, I’ll be blogging from both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates in Manchester. This morning, at rallies for both Barack Obama and John McCain, three factors in the 2008 race became evident to me. The first is that the media (and campaign staff/volunteer) presence in ...

597290_mccain_014.jpg
597290_mccain_014.jpg

I'm in New Hampshire covering campaign events this weekend. Later tonight, I'll be blogging from both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates in Manchester.

This morning, at rallies for both Barack Obama and John McCain, three factors in the 2008 race became evident to me. The first is that the media (and campaign staff/volunteer) presence in New Hampshire this year may be the largest in several cycles. Standing outside a McCain rally in the small mountain hamlet of Peterborough, CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield noted that, while New Hampshirites are used to a three-ring circus in the days leading up to their first in the nation primary, this year it appears to be an eight-ring circus. The media scrum at McCain's event, pictured here, shows just how intense the media swarm is.

At a morning rally for Obama at North High School in Nashua, it was also clear that Republicans have much to fear in 2008. The McCain rally in Peterborough drew about 600 people, admittedly about one-tenth of the town's population, but most appeared to be grey-haired veterans and their spouses. Obama's rally in Nashua, on the other hand, drew 3,000 people, nearly all of whom were middle aged or young, and about half of whom declared themselves to be undecided voters when Obama asked them to raise their hands, as he often does at the beginning of his stump speeches. The line of cars to get into the Obama event easily stretched a mile. His staff was forced to delay the start of the rally by nearly an hour, as they filed hundreds of voters who stood waiting in the cold into a second overflow gymnasium. It was a testament to both Obama's surging popularity and to his campaign's ability to generate turnout.

I’m in New Hampshire covering campaign events this weekend. Later tonight, I’ll be blogging from both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates in Manchester.

This morning, at rallies for both Barack Obama and John McCain, three factors in the 2008 race became evident to me. The first is that the media (and campaign staff/volunteer) presence in New Hampshire this year may be the largest in several cycles. Standing outside a McCain rally in the small mountain hamlet of Peterborough, CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield noted that, while New Hampshirites are used to a three-ring circus in the days leading up to their first in the nation primary, this year it appears to be an eight-ring circus. The media scrum at McCain’s event, pictured here, shows just how intense the media swarm is.

At a morning rally for Obama at North High School in Nashua, it was also clear that Republicans have much to fear in 2008. The McCain rally in Peterborough drew about 600 people, admittedly about one-tenth of the town’s population, but most appeared to be grey-haired veterans and their spouses. Obama’s rally in Nashua, on the other hand, drew 3,000 people, nearly all of whom were middle aged or young, and about half of whom declared themselves to be undecided voters when Obama asked them to raise their hands, as he often does at the beginning of his stump speeches. The line of cars to get into the Obama event easily stretched a mile. His staff was forced to delay the start of the rally by nearly an hour, as they filed hundreds of voters who stood waiting in the cold into a second overflow gymnasium. It was a testament to both Obama’s surging popularity and to his campaign’s ability to generate turnout.

Lastly, it is clear that, while issues such as healthcare and the economy are important to voters in the Granite State, the war in Iraq continues to draw the most powerful response from voters. Obama drew his largest applause of the morning when he promised the crowd in Nashua that, “I will bring our troops home in 16 months.” Likewise, McCain drew a thunderous response when he spoke of the war on terror and invoked his own experience in Vietnam. There’s just no indication here in New Hampshire that the war in Iraq has become a sideline issue.

Tonight’s debates promise to be a high-stakes romp. Stay tuned…

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