One of my all time favorite political cartoons showed a forest of snow-laden maple trees with taps and buckets for collecting the run off and each bearing a poster saying, “Yorty for President” for the presidential campaign then-Mayor of Los Angeles Sam Yorty. The caption read, “The sap is running in New Hampshire.”
I often think of that when I read of politicians making pilgrimages to the Granite State in what they hope will be their first step on the road to the White House. I’m not calling all of them saps, but I do confess I am underwhelmed by the quality of most of those who are convinced they belong in the Oval Office.
Sen. Rand Paul is the first of a long parade of 2016 presidential wannabes making a ritual trek to New Hampshire, just under three years in advance of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary which carries disproportional influence.
The Tea Party favorite will be the speaker at the state party’s Liberty Dinner on May 20. The freshman senator from Kentucky is the son of perennial presidential candidate, former Rep. Ron Paul, who ran both as a Republican and Libertarian. Both men are outspoken opponents of foreign aid.
The importance of New Hampshire is not its four electoral votes but the fact that, thanks to intense media coverage, it is the first chance for people to see the contenders on the stump and it is their first opportunity to engage in retail politics outside their home turf.
In New Hampshire candidates meet and greet voters who have a lot more campaign experience than most of the pols and their staffs. There’s a famous – and true – story of voters being asked their preferences and answering, “I don’t know, I haven’t met them all yet.”
That may spoil the voters but it is a demanding and valuable gauntlet for candidates. It’s a lot tougher than it looks.
Looking for publicity and momentum, many a would-be president, like Yorty, saw his dreams melt in the New Hampshire snows. In fact, disappointing results in New Hampshire persuaded two incumbent presidents not to seek a second term — Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.
So keep en eye out for pols making the trek to the Granite State.
And don’t forget Iowa, which holds its caucuses prior to the New Hampshire primary. Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin have already been testing the waters in the Hawkeye State and look for them to begin showing up frequently in both states along with a whole slew of other over-confident wannabes. Rand Paul will be going to Iowa 10 days before his New Hampshire speech to address the annual GOP Lincoln Day dinner there. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who came in second in last year’s GOP primaries and sounds like he plans to run again, is scheduled to address a faith-based group in Iowa on April 15. So far no word from Michele Bachmann.
The race is wide open on the Republican side, but on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton is sucking nearly all the oxygen out of that race. No one is likely to jump in until the former Secretary of State/First Lady decides whether to run. If she opts out, look for Vice President Joe Biden to jump in. Age could be a factor for both. Biden will be 74 in 2016; Hillary will be 69.