The Blog

Richelieu: When D.C. Comes to New Hampshire

4:36 PM, Jan 7, 2008 • By RICHELIEU
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New Hampshire is visually vibrant during the final hours before a hotly contested presidential primary. Signs are everywhere, as are sign wavers. Everyone is sporting stickers or apparel for their candidates. The major hotels are full of media or fixers or staffers still hustling for candidates who are long out of the hunt for first place. One of the great ironies of all this is that while most of the American political elite decamps from Washington, DC, to hit the hustings and discover the "real story" of what's happening "on the ground," a whole lot of the ground here is ersatz and imported lock, stock, and barrel from, uh, Washington, DC.

Stop your car on an icy street at twilight among a crowd of eager sign wavers at any major intersection and interrogate the 27-year-old fleeced-up chief sign waver and you are likely to find this paragon of New Hampshire's vital small-D-democracy is actually a Hill staffer on the House Foreign Relations committee. Yup, a whole lot of the busy door knockers, sign wavers, and rally applauders here are short time imports from the Beltway political machine, here to support their favored candidates. Never have so many SAT and LSAT points been assigned to such chimp-level labor. Yesterday, in the nicotine-scented bar area of a working class Manchester political hangout, I bumped into a sweater-wearing guy clearly exploring the sacred and the profane, as he had a beer in one hand and a big Huckabee pin on his sweater. I was going to ask him the local temperature until I recognized him as an old pro lobbyist pal who's take-home pay last year was at least 20 times the average family income in New Hampshire.

When DC comes to New Hampshire, it comes not to observe but to invade and conquer.