Governor Tom Vilsack’s flying into New Hampshire tonight (Tuesday) and will campaign there tomorrow and Thursday. Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson has just landed in New Hampshire this afternoon to cover Vilsack’s latest venture in presidential politics.
Tom Vilsack is on the last leg of his eight-year run as Iowa’s Governor, but he’s now more openly embarking on a White House run with this trip to New Hampshire. Mark Halperin, the political director for ABC News, says Vilsack could be a good fit for New Hampshire.
“He does well talking to people directly. He doesn’t have airs about him which is important because he can show up at events in New Hampshire, just like in Iowa, and find five people in a living room rather than the maybe 35 you were expecting,” Halperin says. “I think people in New Hampshire care a lot about issues and Governor Vilsack can handle himself on issues.”
The list of potential Democratic presidential candidates is long and many candidates have made repeated trips to New Hampshire. “He’s not so far behind he can’t catch up, but if he’s serious about this he’s going to have to get on some more airplanes and get to New Hampshire much more than he has so far,” Halperin says.
A Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa Caucus-goers found Vilsack in fourth place among potential presidential candidates, behind John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. There has been no credible poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters at this early stage.
Halperin says the level of interest in the 2008 presidential race is incredibly high in New Hampshire. “There are probably more activists in New Hampshire interested at this stage than, I think, in Iowa. Outside the hard-core activists in Iowa, I think most people think there should be a decent interval between elections,” Halperin says. He gauges politics as more of a “full-time sport” in New Hampshire.
Most of the population in New Hampshire is concentrated in the southern part of the state, according to Halperin, so that population base reads the same newspaper and watches the same television station. “It’s a smaller, more compact and I think more activist community in both parties,” Halperin says.
Dorothy Solomon, chair of the Carroll County New Hampshire Democratic Party, lives in the rural “north country” part of the state. She says Democrats in her part of the state are looking for a candidate who opposes the war in Iraq and proposes a way to provide “universal” health care to all Americans. “These are the things that we’re interested in up here,” Solomon says. “What they do down south could be somewhat different.”
Ray Buckley, a leading Democrat in Manchester who runs the staff for Democrats in the New Hampshire Senate, says the New Hampshire primary is vastly different from the Iowa Caucuses. “It’s a much more personal decision versus in the caucuses where you very much have to publicly declare who you support,” Buckley says.
Another big factor Vilsack must consider is the large number of registered Independent voters in New Hampshire who vote in the presidential primary — Buckley says those Independents can swing the election. “So that you’re not only going after the hard-core Democrat voters but you’re also going into the couple hundred thousand who consider themselves Independents,” Buckley says.
During conversations with Radio Iowa, a few New Hampshire party insiders suggested Governor Vilsack may face questions about the effort to change the schedule of events in the presidential campaign and a perception that Iowa Democratic leaders abandoned a long-standing alliance with New Hampshire that has kept Iowa the first caucus state and New Hampshire the first primary state.
ABC’s Halperin calls it the “frayed solidarity” in the two states’ effort to retain “first-in-the-nation” status for their electoral contests. “But I don’t think people will necessarily hold that against Governor Vilsack,” Halperin says. “Surprisingly, to my mind, outside the (political) elite there isn’t very much thought about the other state.”
Dorothy Solomon, that northern New Hampshire activist, agrees that most New Hampshire voters could care less. “Unless you’re really are an activist, I don’t know that they are that much informed as to what Iowa did or didn’t do,” she says.
Governor Vilsack is due to speak at an eight o’clock “politics and eggs” breakfast in Bedford, New Hampshire Wednesday morning, the first of five public appearances Vilsack will make in New Hampshire over the next two days.