Under suspicion, continued
by Seth Gitell
Last winter, before the New Hampshire primary, you couldn't step into a diner
or onto a campus without tripping over an operative for Al Gore's campaign --
or sometimes even Gore himself. But that's not the case now, just three months
before the general election.
The Gore campaign doesn't have a state director in New Hampshire, and the
campaign is debating whether it should even try to compete there. In part, the
weak presence in New Hampshire is a result of the Gore campaign's own strategy.
Campaign advisers have targeted 12 to 17 states in the heartland --
Pennsylvania, Illinois, etc. -- that the Democrats must win to secure the
presidency. New Hampshire isn't crucial. Bush's appearance in Maine and New
Hampshire this week shows that the Republicans think they can win this and are
"Al Gore's got a tremendous number of supporters up here. People have been
doing everything on their own, letting the campaign spend dollars in other
states that are a little bit larger," says Ray Buckley, Gore's New Hampshire
political coordinator. Buckley, the vice-chair of the state Democratic Party
and the Democratic whip in New Hampshire's House of Representatives, says he's
too busy to be state director of the campaign.
Some Democrats argue that the Gore campaign shouldn't worry about getting a
team in place given that Jeanne Shaheen, a key Gore ally and high-profile
Democratic governor, is running for office this year. "Who needs a New
Hampshire coordinator when you have Jeanne Shaheen, and she's got a race," says
Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh. "The fact that people will be coming out
voting for her will be good for Gore. The fact that she's such a Gore supporter
and has a race will ensure that there will be many efforts up there that will
be good for Gore."
Still, it's significant that the Gore people haven't been able to find a young
Democratic operative to take on the job for next to nothing. New Hampshire,
after all, is a breeding ground for some of the most influential political
talent in the country. Former Democratic operatives who cut their teeth in New
Hampshire include the Dewey Square Group's Charles Baker, who ran New Hampshire
for Michael Dukakis in 1988, and Michael Whouley, also of Dewey Square, who is
a top adviser to Gore right now.
"New Hampshire is a primo place," says Buckley. "Once you've got New Hampshire
experience, you're quite the commodity every four years."
The question is whether it's the hot economy or something else that's prompting
political wanna-bes to stay away.
Seth Gitell can be reached at sgitell[a]phx.com.
The Talking Politics archive