Wednesday, October 24, 2007

through the lens

through the lens, originally uploaded by Ben McLeod.

State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (and the media) watch as Sen. Obama signs his papers.

Wanna feel like you were there? Watch the audio slide show I put together.

OCTOBER 23, 2007, 7:59 PM
On the Road: New Hampshire Filings

CONCORD, N.H. – Behind the imposing granite Statehouse here, a crew of workers were sweeping piles of red and gold leaves into a contraption that looked like a giant vacuum cleaner. Inside, down a hallway lined with oil portraits of governors with names like Person C. Cheney (1875-77) and Moody Currier (1885-87), a small but steady stream of presidential aspirants has been making the way to a second-floor office to pay a $1,000 fee to get on the ballot for the New Hampshire primary.

A man named Albert Howard, 41, flew in from Ann Arbor, Mich., to enter the primary. Mr. Howard, a father of eight who gave his occupation as “family man,’’ said he was running as a Republican on a platform of shutting down the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve, and withdrawing from the United Nations. He said he was heartened to be getting more hits on his website, The site quotes him thus: “The Angel of the Lord told me in January of 1992 that Hillary Rodham Clinton and I would meet and be running against each other and that she would lose.’’

Some New Hampshire reporters asked him a few questions, to be polite.

Then there was a rumble outside: Rudolph W. Giuliani was on his way up. Cameras and boom microphones sprouted, and a few elbows were thrown. One of the women who works in the office, Room 204, stood on a desk to make sure she should get a snapshot over the commotion.

Mr. Giuliani made his way behind an old, ornate writing desk, believed to be the only piece of furniture that was original to the Statehouse when it opened in 1819 (it cost $16 back then), and signed a poster known as the “Notice to the Voters,” which is posted in every town to tell the voters when and where the primary will take place.

Of course this year, with New Hampshire trying to guard its first-in-the-nation primary against leapfrogging upstarts, no one knows how early the primary will be held.

“Notice to Voters,’’ the sign reads right now. “The Presidential Primary will be held in the voting plan in __________ on _________.”

One member of the Giuliani entourage, Paul Celluci, the former governor of Massachusetts, asked, “Can he fill in the date?”

The inscrutable New Hampshire secretary of state, William M. Gardner, who has spent 31 years defending New Hampshire’s primary, and who has the sole discretion over setting the date, just laughed.

“Can you give us a hint?’’ Mr. Giuliani asked.

“Not quite yet,’’ Mr. Gardner responded, with a patient smile.

Mr. Giuliani signed the Notice in a large, slightly looping hand, and handed over his check for $1,000. “God Bless America!” he wrote with his signature.

The Notice looked a bit like the poster for a high school play, slowly filling up with autographs. “It’s time for real change!” Senator Barack Obama wrote. “Keep N.H. First,’’ wrote Senator Christopher J. Dodd. “Thanks for being the first in the nation and giving America hope!” Mike Huckabee wrote.

Senator John McCain, who won the primary in 2000, may have been channeling “Poltergeist” a bit when he wrote “He’s BAAACK!” over his signature.

Mr. Gardner, a student of history who wrote a book on the New Hampshire primary with Hugh Gregg, the late former governor, paused to spend a little time chatting about the state’s primary traditions between filers. He cracked open a 1906 biography of Edward H. Rollins, a senator from New Hampshire, which gives a century-old account of New Hampshire which, literary style aside, still sounds remarkably current.

“The intensity and excitement of these campaigns have never been exceeded in any state,’’ it read. “The voter who was not willing to make his vocation or business subsidiary to politics was regarded as unpatriotic.’’

It went on to describe the campaigning. “Men of national reputation on both sides, leaders prominent in other States, distinguished members of Congress, took part in the campaign, speaking upon the stump,’’ it said. “The state was visited by correspondents of leading metropolitan newspapers, who gave their readers thrilling accounts of the campaigns, forecasting the result.’’

(Note to readers: are you thrilled yet?)

Mr. Gardner – who can talk knowledgeably about New Hampshire’s role in creating the modern national political convention system, or the way Eugene J. McCarthy’s strong finish in the 1968 New Hampshire primary was followed closely by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection – said that New Hampshire was notable for its inclusiveness. He said that anyone who cannot afford the $1,000 filing fee can get it waived, and mentioned that the state invites all the candidates – even the lesser-known ones – to participate in a debate late in the fall.

Then the Giuliani entourage decamped. Mr. Giuliani, who never officially announced his candidacy with a big speech or anything, may have been feeling even more of an official candidate. At the next stop, a town-hall-style meeting with employees of the Lincoln Financial Group, he drew nervous laughter by beginning his speech with what sounded obvious: “I’m running for president of the United States.’’

Back at the Statehouse, the windy side streets began to fill with people wearing pins and stickers that proclaimed them supporters of Representative Ron Paul of Texas.

He was on his way to file for the New Hampshire primary.

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