Rocky stars

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  February 14, 2007

But a lot of important people are still waiting to hear from the two candidates. The only contact Laura Thibault, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire, had with either candidate, for instance, was when she introduced herself to Obama during his walk along Main Street. “He was very friendly, and that was that,” she says. Doug Bogan, program director of Clean Water Action New Hampshire, couldn’t even get in to see Obama at the huge Durham event. “I tried to get a ticket, but it was all sold out,” he says. Thibault and Bogan are the kind of respected veteran activists to whom those Democrats who base their votes in part on reproductive-choice and environmental issues turn. “We get a lot of phone calls from our private donors and our members, almost as soon as someone declares themselves a candidate,” Thibault says. “We’re already getting those calls.”

On this first trip to New Hampshire, Hillary covered the most bases — thanks largely to her astute hiring of New Hampshire political insiders like Karen Hicks and Liz Purdy, who made sure the New York senator reached out to some of the state’s most important influencers, the ones who hold the most sway over the most people.

For example, Hicks made sure Clinton placed a pre-visit personal phone call to Mark Mackenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO. Clinton’s staff also invited Mackenzie to her Sunday-morning no-media function at the Maison in Manchester (though he was sick and could not attend).

Obama, however, did not call. On Monday, his staff extended a last-minute luncheon invitation to Mackenzie and his staff, who could not attend on such short notice. “Obama has not reached out to the AFL-CIO yet in New Hampshire,” Mackenzie says.

Perhaps Obama or Clinton can carry the New Hampshire primary without the goodwill of people like Mackenzie. But four years ago Howard Dean made that bet and lost.

“The media stuff, the big events they’re going to run — that’s not going to get [candidates] where they need to be in New Hampshire,” says Mackenzie.

Stroking egos
On future visits, both Clinton and Obama intend to conduct old-fashioned “retail politics.” Or so they tell Terri Norelli, the state’s new House Speaker and one key influencer both candidates met with this week. “But I think that may be difficult for them,” Norelli says, wondering if the lure of the big crowds will leave them with time for small gatherings.

To help, Clinton has hired at least three walking Rolodexes: Karen Hicks, a veteran of New Hampshire campaigns, including John Kerry’s; Liz Purdy, who has worked for New Hampshire governor John Lynch and former governor Jeanne Shaheen; and former state Democratic Party executive director Nick Clemons.

It was Hicks and Purdy who asked Joan and Alan Reische to host Sunday’s Clinton house party in their Manchester home. “The ability to network is very important in reaching out to people who can put together events like this,” says Alan Reische. “There’s a significant advantage in recruiting people who have been through the process in New Hampshire before.”

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