Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is already better organized in New Hampshire in June, two months before the party conventions, than John McCain’s campaign ever was four years ago.
Romney’s campaign stop at Doug and Stella Scamman’s Stratham farm last week — Republican Woodstock, if you will — showed off the campaign’s impressive mastery of large event logistics. This is not your grandfather’s presidential campaign.
A fleet of golf carts ferried 2,000 guests from freshly hayed parking areas to the main stage. The large crowd was processed through a bank of Secret Service metal detectors efficiently. Tickets were scanned using handheld barcode readers, with names and contact information of all attendees captured by the campaign and fed into a database that will be used for volunteer recruitment.
The optics on the event were well planned and executed, with advance teams fixing an enormous banner reading “Every Town Counts” to the roof of the Scammans’ barn and positioning haywagons to create a theater for Romney’s speech. Backup generators ensured no power failures would affect the professional sound and lighting equipment, the traveling press corps, the band, or the film crew capturing the scene for commercials.
The candidate knew what he was there to do, too. Romney framed the race as a referendum on a failing President who “thinks we’re on the right track and his policies are working.” The only glitch in any of this was weather that was, as Romney is sometimes accused of being, too perfect: The sunshine was so bright, at times Romney had difficulty reading his teleprompters.
Four years ago at this time, McCain’s campaign headquarters in the Manchester Millyard was open but inactive. This despite McCain having wrapped up the nomination faster than any non-incumbent Republican ever had, while then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton engaged in a protracted fight. The entire spring passed without the McCain campaign getting organized for the general election in swing states, including New Hampshire. Events never lost the appearance of having been thrown together at the last minute by an understaffed, underfunded, and undersupplied ragtag band doing the best they could with what they had, which was the condition of the entire campaign operation.
For a guy who was able to quote the last lines of “Invictus” (“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”), John McCain’s campaign had a fatalism to it befitting the candidate’s life story. McCain has lived on bonus time for 40 years. Losing a presidential election would not be the worst day of John McCain’s life. Either he was going to win this thing or not, and nothing the campaign did was likely to make much of a difference.
It is the Romney campaign that acts like it controls its own destiny. This was Romney’s fourth visit to New Hampshire in eight weeks. The headquarters in Bedford operates with a large and focused staff. In a state Democratic presidential candidates have carried in four of the past five elections, the Romney campaign is committed to putting New Hampshire’s four electoral voters in Romney’s column.
Dick Green returns
While Romney campaigned in Stratham and Milford, the last hours for candidates to file for state offices ticked off at the Secretary of State’s Office. Whenever a candidate files at the last minute, there’s often a story behind the story.
Rochester’s Dick Green was among the buzzer beaters when he filed for state Senate last Friday afternoon. If successful, Green would make his third trip to the state Senate. He served a term in 1973-74 and came back for two terms from 2003-06 before retiring. Along the way he served as Rochester’s full-time mayor for nearly a decade.
The back story? Republicans used the redistricting process to shore up the swing district by adding Republican-leaning towns stretching up to Alton to make life easier for incumbent Sen. Fenton Groen. But when Groen retired unexpectedly, Republicans struggled to find a strong candidate and party insiders feared losing the seat.
In a bit of choreography, one Republican withdrew Friday and Green entered. He still has a primary against Farmington state Rep. Sam Cataldo, but Green’s candidacy moves the open seat from the toss-up category to likely Republican.
Fergus Cullen, a freelance columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.