New Hampshire voters suddenly lonely

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

New Hampshire voters suddenly lonely

February 4, 2000


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(MANCHESTER, NH) -- Just days after New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, many New Hampshire residents are already experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms as the presidential candidates have deserted the state. "Yeah, sure, I miss them," Dale Everhart, a 33-year-old snowmobile technician from Manchester, said on Wednesday. Up until then, talking with candidates had become a normal part of his daily routine, but suddenly all the candidates were gone. "You know, you invest so much energy in a relationship like that. And then they leave just like that. Without even a phone call. It's not right," Everhart said.

Others across the state feel just as saddened. "I'm not mad at them for leaving," 73-year-old Ida Murphy of Nashua said. "I know they have to move on, but it does hurt." Seldom a day went by when Murphy did not see at least one of the candidates, but for the last two days her front porch has been entirely devoid of politicians. "It's just weird. I got so used to them being there. They were always dropping by, asking for my vote. Sure, it was strange at first, but after a while they started to feel like family."

On those frequent visits, the candidates would usually discuss their policies and beliefs, but often it was the little things that made the difference. "One day, Gary Bauer asked me what I was looking for in a president," Murphy said. "Jokingly, I said, someone to clean my windows, and he actually got up there and cleaned them himself. Then, when I told him I was still leaning towards Bush, he even scrubbed my kitchen floor. That's the kind of man we need in the White House."

People in other states simply cannot hope to have that sort of personal access to a presidential candidate, and that's part of what makes New Hampshire so special. Murphy's sister Meredith, for example, became a Bill Bradley supporter last fall when Bradley began delivering groceries to her every week. "That's the kind of personal attention I want as a voter," she said. "Sure, Al Gore offered to have the secret service do my ironing, but it just wasn't the same."

"Together, we can all make a difference and show the country that old politics is at last dead," Bradley told her on Tuesday just before she went to vote. "Oh, they were out of one percent milk, so I had to get the two percent instead. Hope that's okay," he added.

Of course, it was not just the candidates who were talking to voters; so was the media. Ted Shriver, a 47-year-old electrician from Concord, maintains that he participated in over four hundred opinion polls during the campaign. While such constant polling seems like it would an inconvenience, Shriver, like many in New Hampshire, enjoyed the opportunity to share his views.

"Usually, around ten in the morning, someone from Fox News would call to find out who I was supporting. At noon, it would be a CNN poll, and then CBS would call at the end of the day. Plus sometimes reporters from the New York Times or Washington Post would stop by to ask questions. I loved itů. Now, of course, nobody cares at all what I think. My phone hasn't rung for two days," he said with a sigh.

Perhaps, though, New Hampshire business owners will miss the campaign the most. Owners of television and radio stations are still busy counting all the money they made from political commercials, while most hotels did not have vacancies for months. Owning a hotel has been a lucrative business indeed. Not only were hotels able to rent rooms to political handlers and the press, but as an added bonus many celebrity journalists would often book additional rooms just for their egos alone. "Sam Donaldson was up here last week, and his ego took up an entire wing! It was great! We made all sorts of money." George McGee, manager of the Portsmouth Hilton, said.

Finally, of course, there were the town meetings. It is impossible to talk about the New Hampshire primary without mentioning the ever-present town meeting. Just about everywhere you turned for the past twelve months, some candidate seemed to be holding a town meeting. For 73-year old Edgar Littleton of Laconia, the town meetings are what he will miss the most. "I just loved the town meetings," he gushed. "They really gave us a chance to get to know the candidates on a personal level and truly understand their proposals. Plus, they got me out of the house and away from the wife."

Littleton estimated that he had attended over 350 town meetings during the last year -- an average of almost one a day. "My wife can be really scary sometimes," he explained.


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