Editorial: A special time in a special place

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with former president Bill Clinton as New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch watches during a campaign event in Concord on Nov. 4, 2012. AP

Published: 7/25/2019 8:56:03 AM

It was meant to be a quick stop to buy a raved-about sci-fi novel, but quick was not meant to be. Between the book, The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Cixin Liu, and its intended buyer stood a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd that packed the aisles of Gibson’s Bookstore. They had gathered to hear from Julian Castro, one of the 25 Democratic presidential candidates peregrinating about the state in search of votes.

On almost any given day during these next 6½ months of the New Hampshire primary, anyone who wants to meet a presidential candidate can.

Earlier this week in a letter to the editor, Ruth Nemzoff of Brookline, Mass., recalled her time as a New Hampshire legislator a half-century ago when she hosted presidential candidates in her living room. She no longer has that access to history in the making. If you live in the Granite State, you do.

“I urge each and every one of you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to judge the candidates,” Nemzoff wrote. It’s good advice.

Some of the candidates are hoping for lightning to strike. After all, President Jimmy Carter’s campaign took off after the proprietor of Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett said, upon meeting Carter, “Jimmy who?”

Others, though they’re unlikely to admit it, are campaigning to build their brand, sell a book or angle for a shot at vice president or a job in the next administration. A few are running to publicize an idea. A handful have a shot at becoming president.

Meet them. Decide for yourself which ones are presidential material. The Democratic Party, League of Women Voters and many media outlets list the candidates’ schedules. Ask questions.

Watch for moments when you can say, “I was there when ...”

Bragging rights go to the people in the audience at Nashua High School in 1980 when Ronald Reagan, whose campaign footed the bill for a candidates debate, yelled when the moderator told staff to turn off his microphone, “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Green.” Same for the voters who, in 1992, were at the Dover Elks Club when scandal-plagued candidate Bill Clinton asked for their support. “I’ll never forget who gave me a second chance, and I’ll be there for you till the last dog dies,” the future president said.

Clinton didn’t forget. He came back often. He was in Concord on Nov. 4, 2012, to campaign for the man who lost the 2008 New Hampshire primary to his wife. On that frigid day more than 14,000 people gathered behind the State House to hear Clinton say, “Twenty years and nine months ago, New Hampshire began the chance for me to become president. It’s no secret that I never tire of coming here.” Clinton explained why Obama deserved a second term. And then the president spoke.

“Now, New Hampshire, in two days, you’re all going to have a choice to make. And it’s not just a choice between two candidates or two parties. It’s a choice between two different visions of America ... ”

Any city in any state in America would have been proud to host that campaign event. But it happened in New Hampshire because its residents can, if they choose, look every candidate in the eye, take their measure, then vote first.

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