NEWS

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January 9, 2008

2 days in NH, part 7: Shut out of democracy

All the energy that was missing at Romney and Huckabee’s rallies is back in a big way outside the town house in Peterborough. McCain, much like Obama, has a way about him that wins him not just supporters, but followers. The men—and it is mostly men—we see standing on the steps holding up green-and-white “Irish for McCain” signs are remnants of his 2000 stunner who needed only a sign of life before jumping back aboard the Straight Talk Express. It’s the type of DIY grassroots support that Romney and Huckabee both lack but attracts itself naturally to the Arizona senator.As we near the top of the steps to the second floor, the horde in front of us ominously grinds to a halt, and we’re stuck, just feet from the entrance. A white haired fire chief who looks like Colonel Sanders appears and announces, quite sternly, that no one is getting inside. Hoping for a repeat of my break-in at the Obama event, I move forward. Fire chiefs, unlike student volunteers, are no pushovers, however, and it becomes quite clear that no one is going through those doors.Apparently, this includes none other than Meghan McCain, the candidate’s daughter, which leads to this heated exchange, between a flummoxed staffer and the fire chief. “She’s the candidate’s daughter.” “No one is allowed in.” “She’s the candidate’s daughter!” “No one’s getting in!” After about 20 seconds of this, the Fire Marshall begrudgingly relents, and the blogette is free to enter. We aren’t so fortunate, however, and head downstairs with the rest of the disconsolate masses.If the supporters outside are disappointed at not getting to hear the senator speak, they don’t show it. The fervor only picks up, with a team McCain volunteer leading “John MC–CAIN!, John MC–CAIN!” chants, as the leader of the McCain Irish speaks with a television crew from Sweden. About 10 minutes later, we see it: the “Straight Talk Express,” in all its blue, yellow, and gray splendor. It takes a turn past us at the intersection and everyone flocks to meet it, hoping to catch a glimpse of the candidate getting off. The “Irish for McCain” (no "Irish for Romney" signs in New Hampshire, for some reason) mob picks up the pace again with a “Mac is back!” chant, as they crowd around the front of the bus. First off is none other than Ana Marie Cox, founder of Wonkette, Time’s Washington Editor, and Chicago Maroon alum—not that anyone else cares. About a minute later, though, the candidate steps off with his wife, Cindy. The place erupts as he shakes hands, smiles, and waves, before heading into the building.McCain generates an enthusiasm that I haven’t seen from either of the other two Republican contenders here. My impression is that those who support Romney do so on the basis of his policies, whereas a vote for McCain is often founded in something deeper—they believe in the man. I don’t get the chance to see him speak, but I don’t need to. It’s clear from what I’ve seen that after eight years, this is still McCain country, through and through.(note: this was written before the primary results were in, honest)