Last Night's Spin Room, and Other NH Observations

Jerome has invited all the campaign bloggers to stay on as weekend bloggers. This platform is a privilege - especially for someone who can't even legally drink for another four months - and I am honored to have it. Since I'm here in New Hampshire, I thought I would share some ground level observations and experiences. This post includes analysis of last night's spin room (with an emphasis on Elizabeth Edwards and a funny story about David Brooks), the sign wars, a Richardson event, a very strange phone call, and overall momentum.

I spent last night volunteering in the spin room for both debates. My job during the Republican debate was just to stand around and look busy, filling the room for the cameras. I pulled out my own camera and shot video of Ron Paul, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Tancredo (who I actually said hello to once the spinning was over... icky, but he does have a nice smile). When the Democrats came on, I spent an hour helping Elizabeth Edwards. This was the first time I've met her, and she was incredibly gracious and kind, even to those with critical questions. Many folks in politics are rather passive aggressive; she couldn't have been less so, and even remembered my name after the hour. I know now what folks mean when they say they wish it were her running for President. I was, however, unimpressed with her spin. She made great points about the media ignoring John Edwards, but spent most of the hour explaining why her husband is the best candidate for change. The problem there is, it's almost better to make weak arguments on your own turf than it is strong arguments on someone else's turf - and as long as the debate is about change, it's on Obama's turf. If Edwards and Clinton want to argue change, they have to land knock-out blows, and as whip-smart and impressive as Elizabeth Edwards may be, those weren't knockout blows.

I headed back to my car around midnight - and who should I find on the empty sidewalks but a lost David Brooks, unable to find his car. He asked if I knew where the media lots were, and then proceeded to head in the opposite direction of what I told him. Having parked near a media lot, I can now say with some confidence: David Brooks asked me for help, and wound up even more lost when he didn't take my directions.

The rest is a little lengthy for a frontpage post, especially since I'm a bit of a ludite and am not sure how to make a slideshow yet, so I'll stick it below the fold.

Todd is right - the spin room is a very surreal experience. Partly because of its enormity - like he said, all the usual phases from the media and campaigns, but in one room - but also because of its ridiculousness. I thought to myself, what would a museum tour guide of a future, higher evolved species tell his schoolchildren? "They would pick new leaders by cramming thousands of themselves into a large indoor box and run around with digital devices, grunting about which potential leader outtalked the others." I suppose similar things could be said about any crowd. Here's a YouTube I found of Mrs. Edwards, and some pictures of the room:

Outdoors, the Paulites were definitely the most visible supporters - one even made his way into the Democratic spin room somehow. He had the credentials, but that Paul sign was definitely not kosher. Driving around the state, however, Paul signs certainly aren't as visible. Obama signs are definitely the most common in Manchester, followed closely by Romney and Clinton. I'm sorry to report that I have only seen one Mike Gravel sign anywhere in the state. There aren't too many signs in the Hanover area, but the Obama people are in full force at the intersections, and I got hit up by some Clinton canvassers on the sidewalk - until they noticed my Biden button's Obama twin.

Today was a much slower day--all I did was say hello to the Governor of New Mexico. (Isn't that a ridiculous statement?) Richardson spoke to a group of about 250 voters at Hanover High School. It was the fourth time I've seen Richardson, and the second time I've met him. His stump speech was certainly the most policy-oriented speech I've heard, and now that Biden is out of the race, there's really no question that Richardson is the education candidate, something he pushed even harder than his executive experience. He did not take questions - too many events, too little time. What was most impressive about the event is that when asked if they'd watched the debate, 2/3 of the crowd raised their hands.

I spoke with a friend who works for the campaign, and he predicted that Richardson would drop out after NH. It was only a gut feeling, he said, but he didn't see where they would get the money to move forward. I'm sticking with the Nevada timeframe, as it was only his insider guess, not his insider knowledge. No one will blame a western Governor for waiting for a western primary, no matter how poorly he fares in New Hampshire. (Most Dartmouth students are with Obama per an informal poll an Edwards friend conducted, but most of the activists are working or volunteering for Richardson.) I do have to say that while I think Richardson makes too many gaffes and doesn't display enough of a rhetorical vision to be President, I still hope he does well. What the media did to him, Biden, and Dodd was shameful, and someone should stick it to them.

Finally, most NH residents have received dozens of phone calls from pollsters, advocacy groups, and campaigns. I'm cellphone-only, and received my first phone call just last night. It was a very strange call, and not just because I'm not sure how they got my Idaho cell. It came from a blocked number: 000-000-0000. The caller said he only had one question: who am I supporting in the NH Democratic primary? I asked who he was, and he said, "We're just running a little survey, that's all, to gauge support." Yes, I said, but who is "we"? Who was the survey sponsor? The question took him aback. "Oh... well... um... I'm really not allowed to tell you that." To which I replied, "Oh, well, then I'm really not allowed to tell you who I'm supporting, but good luck," and hung up. Now, I've done internal polling for campaigns before, and never had to keep it anonymous. For the comment section - what the heck do you think that was all about?

Overall, I have to agree with Jerome's predictions - I'm not sure how Obama can lose this primary. Not only is he leading, or at worst statistically tied, in every post-Iowa poll, the momentum is clearly on his side. The sign wars are one thing, but I think it's pretty clear that Clinton lost last night's debate, and with as large an audience as it had, that will sting. Youth voters are energized like never before - all the other debate volunteers I spoke with quietly admitted an Obama preference - and as Todd wrote, the crowd at 100 Club absolutely exploded for him. A friend with the Obama campaign told me that much of their enthusiastic crowd was planted, not spontaneous, but the fact that the campaign was able to pull it off when the Clinton campaign couldn't (and they did try) speaks volumes about the competing organizations. Consider it a dry run for GOTV. With only a day to go and momentum on Obama's side, I don't see how Clinton makes up the gap. The only thing she has going for her is the weather - the high will be up around 50, even though it was 12 below last week, and less ice means more senior women making it to the polls.

Tomorrow will be another blitzkrieg - Obama in Lebanon in the morning and Huckabee's final rally in Rochester at night. Bill Clinton will be here in Hanover, but I saw him in Manchester two months ago and haven't seen much of the GOP. I'm going to try and catch McCain, either in Hanover or on the way to Rochester, but the Obama event is more important. The real education for me is seeing candidates in a non-college atmosphere, as those events have a very different feel. Tuesday will be more Obama - he's on campus in the morning, and I'm driving to his Nashua headquarters for election returns. I'm hoping to catch Edwards somewhere in there, but Hillary unfortunately doesn't look doable.

I understand that many of you are angry about this focus on New Hampshire, and I don't blame you. It serves a purpose, but is a bit unfair, and something I will write about at a later date.

Tags: 2008, Bill Richardson, David Brooks, debates, democratic ABC/Facebook debate, Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards, New Hampshire, New Hampshire primary, NH Primary, president, spin room (all tags)



yeah right

being 4 months away from 21 shouldn't stop you or anyone from drinking.


by KainIIIC 2008-01-06 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: yeah right

I said legally.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-06 06:38PM | 0 recs
Obama owns "Change"

I enjoyed reading your anecdotes, but I have to  seriously question this:

I was, however, unimpressed with her spin. She made great points about the media ignoring John Edwards, but spent most of the hour explaining why her husband is the best candidate for change. The problem there is, it's almost better to make weak arguments on your own turf than it is strong arguments on someone else's turf - and as long as the debate is about change, it's on Obama's turf.

How is talking out change "Obama's turf"?  Did the Obama campaign patent "change"?  Is there a copyright I'm unaware of?

John Edwards campaign has been using a narrative about the need for real fundamental change for a long, long time.  

To suggest that it's the provenance of Barack Obama is simplistic, to say the least.

Now, if you wanted to say that the Edwards campaign would be treading on Obama's turf if they talked about "a new kind of politics" and "changing the tone", you might have a point.

But the Edwards campaign is an insurgent campaign every bit as much as the Obama campaign is.  

For that matter, any of the Democrats could claim legitimacy as change agents, given 7 years of a Republican administration.

by Malacandra 2008-01-06 06:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

I don't disagree that Edwards provides substantive change, but in the public's mind, I think the narrative is that Obama=hope and change, Clinton=unelectable (or witchy, depending on your party) woman, and Edwards=either populist or Southerner. And even if Edwards has been discussing change, has it ever been in his motto? Has that particular word been a major and repititive part of his speech for very long?

I personally agree that all our candidates will provide change, but turf and spin aren't about the substance; they're about the perception.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-06 06:42PM | 0 recs
"Change for America"

And even if Edwards has been discussing change, has it ever been in his motto?

Yea, it was, that his closing slogan in Iowa in '04, on all the pamphlets and brochures. I remember thinking, damn, he stole our slogan!

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-01-06 06:46PM | 0 recs
Re: "Change for America"

Fair enough, I guess I do remember that - but I don't know how much 2004 counts when talking about perception, especially since other candidates were drawing so much more media attention at that point.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-06 06:49PM | 0 recs
Re: "Change for America"


Good decision to invite Texan back... not sure if I agree with ALL of those you invited, but at least you were fair :-)  And since its your site, its your call.

Good decision though!  I think it only serves to improve MyDD.

by yitbos96bb 2008-01-06 06:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

Yeah, every time I've seen Edwards speak he not only mentioned change, he hammered on it.  Repeatedly.  Relentlessly, even.

Is it in his motto?  Yeah, it is.

At the top of every single page of his website: "Join the Campaign to Change America". Every. Single. Page.

That looks like a motto to me.

by Malacandra 2008-01-06 06:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

How long has that been true?

Perhaps I stand corrected about his rhetoric. But right or wrong, the public perception - driven, of course, by shoddy MSM journalism - is what it is.

I just decided, btw, to go see him and Elizabeth at a 6:30 event. I'd love to make the 4am, but it's too far for me.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-06 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

How long had that been the motto on his site?  
Since he launched it after announcing his candidacy.

But even before he announced his candidacy, back when was the "One America" site dealing with poverty and Katrina victims, the motto in the banner of THAT site read "We want to change this country, and together we will".

He's been preaching "change" for a long, long time.

As far as public perception goes, that's neither here nor there... perception doesn't alter underlying realities. And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with your original assertion that Elizabeth - talking about change - was on "Obama's turf".  

She wasn't.
She was being consistent to the narrative of the Edwards campaign since Day One.  

Barack Obama, for all his copious gifts and talents, nevertheless doesn't own the idea of "change".

by Malacandra 2008-01-06 11:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

perception doesn't alter underlying realities.

That's true, but it's beside the point. I wasn't talking about which candidate stands for what, but about who can win and why, and if the public links an issue with a candidate, that issues becomes "their turf," so to speak. From a process point of view, the underlying realities are irrelavant - and that is a shame.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-07 12:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

When you talk about what the narrative is, are you are suggesting that this is how the general public views these three candidates, or how some smaller subset (say bloggers, or campaign workers) view these candidates? 'Cause if you're talking about the way the general public views them, I have to seriously question your assumptions  -- if we are distilling these candidates down to one or two words, the words you have chosen for Edwards and Clinton are descriptive of who they are, not what they stand for, i.e., Southerner or woman. If we were to apply the same to Obama, based on what the public might know of him, probably the first thing that would come up would be African American (and that is very much part of his narrative -- that his background is literally African and American).

But I guess what disturbs me about the words that you have chosen is how negatively you assume the public views Clinton using what is basically Republican framing; that she is unelectable, and that she is "witchy" -- which we all know really means bitchy, a little wordplay that was first introduced to the public about Clinton by none other than that fine, upstanding citizen and mother of all Bushes, Barbara. It has become shorthand to mean all of the negative things that the Republicans have ever thrown at her (I don't have to go through the list, I'm sure everyone reading this could rattle off a few), that generally boil down to misogyny at their core. I have no doubt that there is a certain segment of the population who responds to that, and who wouldn't vote for her because of it -- but it's the same segment of the population who wouldn't vote for Obama for racist reasons. But they are not words that I think the general public immediately thinks of about her. I think the Republicans would love it if the American public automatically thought Clinton = bitch, but I think that's just wishful thinking on their part, and it surprises me to find a Democrat (one who is clearly very thoughtful and reasoned) who repeats that as a matter of course.

And for my money (literally), Edwards is the one talking about the most substantive change.

by Iphie 2008-01-06 07:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

I'm talking about the general public. Unfortunately, the general perception isn't always about what the stand for. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's about identity. Depends on the candidate. With Obama, you might be right about his skin color, but I think that's part of the reason people look at him for change. Edwards' change may or may not be more real, but Obama's is more obvious, which makes his tone change and substance change easier to percieve, for better or for worse.

I don't deny that w means b, I was just trying not to swear. Didn't know it came from Barbara, though.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-06 07:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

Edwards=populist (vs. Obama=change)

That's the MSM for you. They have certain labels, and simple thought patterns. God forbid they should think more deeply.

I loved one interview of Paul on one of the cable news networks, that said: "for this next set of questions 1 word answers"

Man, I am so missing The Daily Show, Colbert Report, etc. There's been no one for 2 months to stick a pin in the MSM's hot air balloon.

by TheWinch 2008-01-07 01:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama owns "Change"

That's very much the MSM, and as much as I hate to parrot them, I'm talking perception and they do influence it all too much. :(

At least Leno and Letterman are back, but that's SNL humor, not real, truthy satire.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-07 04:29AM | 0 recs
For the record...

It has been a dream of mine since 8th grade to be in a spin room. I am one happy camper.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-06 06:38PM | 0 recs
Re: "informal poll"

The person you talked to broke the law.  Pollsters and campaign workers are required to identify their employers. Period.

Of course, it's hard to make a complaint about a person/campaign when you don't know who they are, but still...

by NM Ward Chair 2008-01-06 11:29PM | 0 recs
Re: "informal poll"

It's possible that it was an advocacy group, 527, or research project rather than a campaign. I can guarantee it wasn't a pollster, no pollster behaves that way. Whatever it was was very, very shady.

by Nathan Empsall 2008-01-07 12:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night's Spin Room, and Other NH Observati

I do love your diaries. I look forward to reading one tonight and one tomorrow night. And yes, I guess that means I do expect them, you being in NH and all. ;)

I think it's interesting about E. Edwards. I saw her with either Russert or Matthews (Don't remember) and she got very sort of defensive/angry/laughing when she talked about the media's characterization of John as a trial lawyer.

My two cents worth of analysis of the two organizations. Obama's wins because his people are volunteering and working with no expectations of anything but eventual hope and change. Clinton's people are showing up because of a faith in the Clinton years, or they are loyal, maybe to a fault, to her. One's about ideas, the other's about the person, and in the end, I think idea's generally bring more people in.

by Politically Wise 2008-01-06 11:41PM | 0 recs


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