MANCHESTER, N.H. --No doubt, the Global Positioning
System is one of the greatest inventions to come along in a long time. That
voice that tells us to turn left, right, and pull a U-turn is so reassuring.
Last night, I would have been as lost as a little lamb in New Hampshire snow
without it. Driving the highway from Nashua to Manchester seemed less
stressful knowing that a satellite signal in the sky had figured out a way to
keep me from getting lost by keeping me on the right path to my destination.
The double header debate on the campus of St. Anselm
College gave voters a chance to hear the candidates from both parties. It was
cold and snow was piled two feet high, but inside the Dana Center for the
Humanities, the candidates were getting hot. In this state, whose motto is
Live Free or Die, it's do or die for Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton.
Clearly, not only Governor Romney and Senator Clinton but all the candidates have become hyper- aware of a new fact since the Iowa Caucus. A new word, the word, has emerged like a bull's-eye on the elective radar: change. Folks in New Hampshire are using a kind of political GPS to determine which candidate will make the quickest U-turn on the policies and actions of the last seven years. Most want a change in almost every policy and aspect of government, both foreign and domestic. Tina, the 20 year old student/waitress at Chili's Restaurant in Nashua summed it up this way, "I'm not sure who I am voting for yet, but I am looking for the one who is going to pull a fast 180."
But before the primary, the people here will have to
navigate through something else: a monster spin machine. After the debates
last night, the spinning was so full tilt, it felt like I was watching a
broken down Maytag with too many towels. Every candidate had a spin-doctor and
the stampede of cameras, recorders, mikes, and lights was like the stampeding
buffalo scene in Dances with Wolves.
Elizabeth Edwards entered the room looking energized as
she passionately discussed her husband's debate performance. She predictably
claimed he had hit a home run and emphasized his "you cannot 'nice' people to
death" comment, an obvious jab at the call of both Obama and Richardson for
dialogue with Pakistan's Musharraf and other leaders in the Middle East.
Assisting her was former Michigan congressman David Bonior, who pointed out
Edwards' debate commitment to end all combat missions in Iraq and to close all
bases there in the first year of his presidency. Joe Trippi, former manager
of the Howard Dean campaign, was putting additional frosting on the Edwards
cake by claiming Edwards would definitely carry the day on Tuesday.
Senator Obama had his own spin game going through the
medium of campaign strategist David Axelrod, who immediately declared Obama to
be the clear winner and forecast a sunnier outcome in the New Hampshire
primary for this candidate than the win last week in Iowa.
The room was also filled to the rafters with heavy hitters such as Joe Scarborough, Joe Klein, Bay Buchanan, and Jeff Greenfield, each trying to out-spin and out-opinionate the other. This went on for well over an hour, at which time the media fanned out to various networks and local stations to broadcast their latest chestnuts
In a little over 24 hours, the good people of the Granite State have got their work cut out for them. The die is cast and the call for a change in direction is resonating loud and clearly. For now, we can only speculate on whose voice we might be hearing when the nation turns on its political Tom Tom in November.