I’m suffering from mixed feelings about the New Hampshire primary results. There was only one candidate truly worth voting for on Tuesday, who truly exemplifies the Live Free or Die spirit. Then again, the Old Man of the Mountain is gone, and perhaps that Live Free or Die spirit fell with him.
So Ron Paul didn’t win the primary. With 289 of 301 precincts (96%) reporting, John McCain is the declared winner with 37% of the vote. Ron Paul picked up 8%, just a few hairs behind Rudy Giuliani. And Fred Thompson, who barely noticed New Hampshire at all during his campaign, was left eating dust.
I was feeling really bad about this until I got an email from Fred Thompson’s PR firm reminding me that in the GOP race there is still “no clear frontrunner,” according to Thompson’s communications director, Todd Harris. “The race is wide open.” Fred has moved on to South Carolina, and it seems, so has Ron Paul and the rest of the pack.
Though, back here in New Hampshire, I can’t help but think something’s gone terribly wrong with a state where people are supposed to generally want the government to leave them the hell alone.
I saw some of this on the other side of the aisle over the last week, when at Murphy’s Taproom, the hottest political hangout in New Hampshire, I had trouble finding a single Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama supporter who actually lived here in the state. Indeed, last night while I watched the late returns come in, three Hillary supporters walked in and ordered tequila shots. The barman asked them for ID, and sure enough, two of them presented California driver’s licenses, and the third a Massachusetts license.
One of them actually had the audacity to speak the words, “Live free or die, baby,” right next to me. It was all I could do to restrain myself from exploding. It’s people like these three who are destroying the Live Free or Die spirit, bit by bit, voter by voter, with the carefully orchestrated snow jobs they pull on voters every election cycle.
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Massholes? Almost as much as I hate California’s nuts. It’s bad enough they screwed up their own states; why do they have to screw up mine?
The other candidate with a significant out of state supporter presence was Ron Paul. Though there are some significant differences: While Hillary and Obama paid their supporters to come here, Ron Paul’s supporters came here on their own dime and the dimes of other real supporters who couldn’t make it, and are sleeping in places like my kitchen and living room, while the other candidates’ paid staffers masquerading as grassroots supporters keep the local hotels doing a brisk business.
Along with those three, I met a man who lives here and told me he supports Ron Paul but didn’t vote for him because he felt the fix was in on the election and his vote wouldn’t have counted anyway. I halfheartedly tried to convince him otherwise, but since the polls had already closed, it was a bit late for it to do any good. Perhaps the fix is in: I read an anecdotal report from some people in the town of Sutton who claim to have voted for Ron Paul there, while the precinct results show no votes at all for Ron Paul.
Anyway, the race is far from over. With nearly $20 million raised in the fourth quarter, Ron Paul has enough cash to make a serious campaign through Super Tuesday and perhaps all the way up to the convention. But the campaign made at least two serious mistakes in New Hampshire and it will have to avoid repeating those mistakes in other states if Ron Paul is to win.
The first serious mistake is that Ron Paul didn’t spend nearly enough time in the state during the last three months. This is, after all, how John McCain rescued his floundering campaign and managed to win the primary: by sticking to an aggressive schedule of town hall meeting after town hall meeting until his throat was hoarse and he was barely able to speak. (I’ll never vote for him; his staff literally tried to take away my guns last weekend.) Ron Paul’s in much better physical shape than McCain, and could have done this as well. Indeed, we warned the campaign months ago about this, and they didn’t listen.
The second serious mistake is that the campaign has had a rocky relationship with the press. Any supporter will tell you the media hasn’t given Ron Paul enough coverage, though the fault for this doesn’t lie entirely with the media. “If Ron Paul is polling 8%, he should get 8% of the coverage,” reporter Declan McCullagh, who is covering the New Hampshire primaries for CNET News.com, told me Saturday night. “But he’s gotten about 3%.”
Part of the problem is the campaign hasn’t communicated well with the press. For instance, the campaign has frequently failed to put Ron Paul’s appearances in the Associated Press daybook, which newspaper editors and television producers (and not just with the AP) consult to figure out what to cover each day. And many campaign staffers have been ambivalent or even openly hostile toward the press. Last month I watched a Ron Paul staffer blow off a FOX News TV crew who wanted to cover Ron Paul activity here in New Hampshire. With media relations like that, is it any wonder that FOX doesn’t cover Ron Paul? If I were running the campaign, I would have fired that person on the spot. But I’m not running the campaign.
So those problems must be fixed going forward, as soon as possible, or the Ron Paul campaign has no chance.
On the bright side, we reached some 18,000 people here with the message of freedom. To them, and to those of you who live in the other 47 states yet to have a primary or caucus, I say this: The Ron Paul Revolution is only just beginning, and it will continue whether Ron Paul wins or not. It’s already begun to revitalize the Republican Party here in New Hampshire (more on this tomorrow) and led several people to consider runs for state and national offices in 2008 on similar platforms.
Before the campaign kicked into high gear, a group of freedom lovers living here in the Merrimack Valley were meeting at Murphy’s Taproom every Tuesday night at 6:30 to socialize with others who still take Live Free or Die seriously. Eventually and inevitably the Ron Paul Revolution took over those meetings. Even with the campaign leaving New Hampshire, we will still be meeting every Tuesday, for there’s still freedom to be fought for at the state level, and if you’re one of those 18,000 voters, pick a Tuesday and join us.