THE PUBLICIST: From posters to parties, NH's primary puts on quite a show

Dreading another Golden Globes snoozer, I skipped town to poke around the New Hampshire Democratic primary. First thing I noticed is that Manchester looks a lot like the Sundance Film Festival: loads of shivering big-city press and VIPs overrunning a small population that is part amused, part dismayed.

Dreading another Golden Globes snoozer, I skipped town to poke around the New Hampshire Democratic primary. First thing I noticed is that Manchester looks a lot like the Sundance Film Festival: loads of shivering big-city press and VIPs overrunning a small population that is part amused, part dismayed.

Taking a cue from the Pentagon's media policy for "Iraq War: The Sequel," I decided to embed myself with a candidate to study firsthand the tactics of the political spinsters. I began in a popular saloon, where I gleaned insight into the campaigns from an assortment of celebrity journalists - including San Francisco Chronicle contributor Stephen Elliott, hot on the campaign trail since Iowa. "Kerry's campaign treats the media well, but discloses little," Elliott said. "Dean's people dislike the press, but are forthcoming. Edwards runs the tightest ship, and Clark's campaign is the most accessible." OK. Clark it is. (Plus, my gal thinks Wes is cute, and, after all, he did take four bullets in Vietnam.) So, the next night I'm standing with 200 Clark volunteers outside the debate venue, jockeying for position. Things were raucous but peaceful, until Kerry's contingent arrived to form a blocking brigade of yellow-clad ruffians who ran over all in their path. Good old-fashioned Boston-style politicking. Speaking of, don't overestimate the political potency of the web. Campaigns are still very much about door-to-door canvassing. Placing signs. And making phone calls. Lots of calls. Which is how I ended up talking to Edwin, a kind man who apologetically declined to attend a rally "because I'm 87 and don't have my toes." Like I never heard that before. Embedded is one thing, but holding signs in the frigid cold is another. So on Saturday night, I abandoned my detail and crashed the hottest ticket in town - Comedy Central's "Indecision 2004" panel discussion and cocktail party, hosted by Jon Stewart and featuring such media kingpins as Tom Brokaw and Joe Klein. Perhaps the most sage advice offered was to never trust opinion polls. "Ninety percent of people don't answer the phone, so pollsters are running on fumes," said Klein. After sniffing around the broadcast headquarters of ABC and C-SPAN, I loaded up on M&Ms and boarded the Clark campaign bus for a grueling nonstop media barnstorm across a frozen Hellscape. Chilling details next week.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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