The Boston Phoenix
August 31 - September 7, 2000


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 competing there.

"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.

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Seth Gitell can be reached at sgitell[a]

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