Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GOP's Granite-State Gantlet Republican Presidential Candidates Hit the New Hampshire Campaign Trail Earlier Than Ever

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GOP's Granite-State Gantlet Republican Presidential Candidates Hit the New Hampshire Campaign Trail Earlier Than Ever

Article excerpt

It's a sunny but windy May afternoon in Nashua, N.H., a city of about 80,000 just across the border from Massachusetts.

The city's Republicans have gathered at the Sheraton Tara Hotel to eat London broil, give awards to local workers, and listen to three presidential candidates: Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Rep. Robert Dornan of California.

It's another typical stop in an unusually early campaign - so early that no one's sure the public is even paying attention. Former New Hampshire Gov. Hugh Gregg (R), who's written two books on the state's primary and is the father of Sen. Judd Gregg (R), says the 1996 race for the GOP nomination is off to the earliest start he's ever seen.

He's not the only one: Others here say the presidential hopefuls have a long way to go to firm up the support they'll need to do well in the Granite State and get an advantage in the compressed primary season next February and March.

* * * *

George Kurzon is a retired doctor from Peterborough who's a member of the Committee for Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina. At a time when most candidates are focused on domestic policy, he wants someone to talk about foreign policy - especially the "genocide" in Bosnia. "I would send a State Department representative to {Serbian President Slobodan} Milosevic and tell him we want to see the war ended, and that we are prepared to use whatever force is necessary to end it."

Mr. Kurzon says the United States shouldn't stay in NATO if the Europeans aren't going to do anything about Bosnia, and he wants the US to end the arms embargo against that country's government.

"Except for {Kansas Sen. Bob} Dole, no one has said anything about it," he says, so Senator Dole would get his vote today.

Republican Hopefuls Jump Start Primary

Another doctor, Jeff Davis of Sharon, says he's a liberal Democrat for Dole. He says he believes the country's problems can't be solved by government, and he's upset with US foreign policy and with Secretary of State Warren Christopher. "Dole's the only candidate who has stood up and said that what's happening in Bosnia is wrong."

* * * *

The New Hampshire primary is the anomaly of American politics. Here, away from the corridors of power in Washington, the bright lights and high finance of New York, and the celebrity of vote-rich Los Angeles, in a state with as many US representatives as senators and only 1.1 million people, men and women who want to be president of the United States meet the public one on one.

Here they call it "retail politics," the old-fashioned way of earning high office. Perhaps it's appropriate that one who wants to be the most powerful person on earth must first run the Granite State gantlet: coffee-klatches in private homes, meetings with high-school social-studies students, lunch with small-town Kiwanis clubs, and dinner after dinner after dinner. It's not just speechifying: The candidates must often respond to questions from an unpredictable public.

"This is much greater than a party exercise," says Republican Tom Rath, a longtime New Hampshire political strategist who is working this year for former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander's campaign. "This is the most important political act of the people of New Hampshire. People here really believe it's important, and vote in big numbers." Some would say that a New Hampshirite's primary vote is more important than his or her presidential vote.

About 170,000 Republicans will vote next February.

* * * *

Doris MacIntyre (R) is a freshman in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from Merrimack. She hasn't chosen a candidate yet.

"I would like a candidate I can trust, one who's a good leader on foreign affairs; who's strong, tough, and promises to lower taxes." Although she is pro-life "with exceptions," she doesn't believe that social issues should be part of the political game. …

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