On the Ground in New Hampshire

Ira Teinowitz Reports From the Granite State

By Published on .

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AdAge.com) -- The colorful trees ever so slowly starting to lose their leaves offer one signal that the season is about to change in New Hampshire. The arrival of the presidential candidates is another.

Of course, some of those candidates have been on the ground for months now. But with the date of the Granite State's January primary due to be formally announced within days if not hours, the quadrennial season of politics is arriving and the candidates are quickly starting to turn from occasional visitors to regular ones.

On the Republican side, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is here today. So is former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. Arizona Sen. John McCain is due here Friday and Saturday. On the Democratic side, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd was here Friday and Saturday. Sen. Hillary Clinton, who was here last week, to file nomination papers, is due back Wednesday and Thursday, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is due Thursday.

A quick drive around the state's largest cities Manchester and Concord may not yet show much obvious indication of the presidential race -- few billboards are up -- but campaign officials say some are there, more are coming and it doesn't much matter because activities are well underway.

Local newspapers reports suggest they are right.

The Manchester Union-Leader on Sunday detailed how Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's campaign was trying to turn mothers with young children into "Obama Mamas," by hosting candidate events where moms are encouraged to bring their kids. While Mr. Obama's stands are explained to moms at the events, Obama volunteers take turns entertaining the kids. One activity: The kids make Obama paper-bag puppets with the candidate's face copied onto the puppets.

Then again, sometimes the fact there is a story at all could be the news. The current edition of the local alternative paper, The Hippo, carried a long question and answer with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister. A big chunk of the interview was devoted to his like of playing of rock music on the guitar and his strong support of music and arts education.

Kathleen Strand, New Hampshire spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, said that behind the scenes the Clinton campaign has seen the level of participation of voters is well up and she predicted last week's closing of candidate filing and this week's setting of a date should quickly kick activities into a far higher gear.

Still, she said, last week's visit by Ms. Clinton drew 1,000 people and this week's visit will be her 20th to the state.

While the billboards may not be noticeable, the advertising certainly is. On Sunday night, WMUR-TV, New Hampshire biggest stations, carried ads from the Obama and Clinton campaigns and from the Mitt Romney and the McCain campaign.
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