New Hamp­shire’s am­bi­tious guests are dream­ing of vic­tory in Fe­bru­ary

The Saline Courier - - OPINION -

New Hamp­shire is for dream­ers. Darby Field was a dreamer when he be­came the first white man to as­cend to the top of Mount Wash­ing­ton, the high­est peak in the White Moun­tains and the back­drop of this town that played host to the fa­mous 1944 fi­nan­cial sum­mit that es­tab­lished the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a dreamer when he took the tragic story of a fam­ily de­stroyed in the Willey Slide of 1826 only miles from here and trans­formed it into one of his “Twice­told Tales,” “The Am­bi­tious Guest,” that he pub­lished nine years later.

Since then, there have been many am­bi­tious guests -- Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado in 1984, former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Mas­sachusetts in 1992, Pa­trick J. Buchanan in 1996 -- who also were big dream­ers. These three dream­ers ac­tu­ally won the pri­mary here.

Now am­bi­tious guests in these hills are dream­ing again.

They are pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates with small prospects but big hopes. One is a former Re­pub­li­can gov­er­nor of

Mas­sachusetts who is tak­ing on the quixotic task of chal­leng­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald

J. Trump in his own party. A sec­ond is a busi­ness­man who coun­ters Trump’s

MAGA theme (“Make Amer­ica Great Again”) with his own MATH theme (“Make Amer­ica Think Harder”).

And a third is an Army Na­tional Guard vet­eran who served in Iraq and Kuwait and has plas­tered bill­boards all over the state -- a high­way pres­ence greater than any other can­di­date -- dis­play­ing her pic­ture and bear­ing sim­ply three enig­matic words: “A sol­dier’s heart.” Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard of Hawaii, who did not make the cut for the Septem­ber or De­cem­ber Demo­cratic debates, won the sup­port of 1% in the CBS News Poll re­leased last Sun­day of likely vot­ers in New Hamp­shire’s first-inthe-na­tion pri­mary.

Former Gov. Wil­liam F. Weld of Mas­sachusetts has lit­tle chance of de­feat­ing Pres­i­dent Trump -- him­self some­thing of a dreamer when he be­gan his White House quest -- in the Feb. 11 Re­pub­li­can pri­mary that is at­tract­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion even here. En­tre­pre­neur An­drew Yang, com­pet­ing in the Demo­cratic pri­mary, has yeasty hopes and imag­i­na­tive pro­pos­als -- and maybe has a bet­ter chance of at­tract­ing at­ten­tion, and per­haps vot­ers, in­clud­ing the in­de­pen­dents who can take a bal­lot in ei­ther party’s con­test. He’s been in all six 2019 debates and raised eye­brows here by rais­ing $16.5 mil­lion in the last three months.

I viewed these two quixotic can­di­dates at cam­paign events 62 miles apart on snow-en­crusted roads in a sin­gle day re­cently and found sev­eral sim­i­lar­i­ties:

Strong op­po­si­tion to Trump.

Grave con­cerns about the di­rec­tion of the new Re­pub­li­can Party. A re­liance on com­mon­sense ar­gu­ments to win sup­port­ers. Ar­tic­u­late ra­tio­nales for their can­di­da­cies. And the like­li­hood of mak­ing a point, but not nec­es­sar­ily a dif­fer­ence, in the 2020 cam­paign.

Lis­ten to Weld speak about the pres­i­dent, from an in­ter­view last week: “Mr. Trump doesn’t have any knowl­edge base.” Here is Weld, who ran as the vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee on the Lib­er­tar­ian ticket in 2016: “Each party needs the other to scare their base so they can get re-elected.” And on the na­tional mood he has sensed: “All around the coun­try, peo­ple are ex­hausted. They don’t want to talk about Trump. They don’t want me to stand up in front of them and tell them what a jerk Trump is.”

Now lis­ten to Yang, from his rally in the back ban­quet room of the vin­tage Gov­er­nor’s Inn in Rochester, New Hamp­shire, on the new econ­omy: “We have to re­write the rules of the 21st cen­tury to work for you and your kids, be­cause it’s not do­ing that now.” Here is his mes­sage to younger vot­ers: “If you are a young per­son and feel like we’ve left you a mess, I apol­o­gize, be­cause we have.” And here, on the ef­fect he thinks his plan to give ev­ery Amer­i­can $1,000 ev­ery month will have: “the trick­leup econ­omy.” (His idea is an echo from an un­likely source: the Nixon ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Fam­ily As­sis­tance Plan that passed in the House in both 1970 and 1971 but died in the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee.)

Weld is an in­de­fati­ga­ble cam­paigner who at 74 still can en­dure a cam­paign lunch stop at the se­nior lunch pro­gram in North Con­way, where the other day he downed a plate of Sal­is­bury steak, mashed pota­toes, corn and Cae­sar salad. Not that his mes­sage is all that wel­come in Re­pub­li­can cir­cles. “I’m against him,” lo­cal real-es­tate bro­ker Steven Steiner told me. “Ev­ery­thing he’d do would ruin the econ­omy.”

There re­mains lit­tle taste in­side the Re­pub­li­can Party for a chal­lenge to the pres­i­dent. “The Re­pub­li­cans who make a liv­ing hat­ing Trump hated him be­fore he was elected,” Scott Jen­nings, a former aide to Ge­orge W. Bush and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell of Ken­tucky, wrote in the Los An­ge­les Times ear­lier this month. “The rest of the party re­mains solidly be­hind him.”

Not so in the Demo­cratic Party, where Yang hopes for a Gran­ite

State break­through. “I’ve never seen an­other guy who can get peo­ple who voted for Don­ald Trump to sup­port him,” said former Mayor Steve Marc­hand of Portsmouth, on the

New Hamp­shire seacoast at the bor­der with Maine.

Some 36 years ago, one of the

New Hamp­shire pri­mary’s big­gest dream­ers, Gary Hart, op­er­ated be­low the radar both here and in Iowa, which holds its precinct cau­cuses eight days be­fore vot­ers go the polls in New Hamp­shire. He gave speeches in re­mote lo­ca­tions, mo­bi­lized a core of ac­tivists to build a po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion, and sur­prised a po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment that bought the no­tion, pub­lished in The New York Times just be­fore bal­lot­ing here, that no can­di­date in years had as­sem­bled a for­mi­da­ble cam­paign op­er­a­tion to match that of former Vice Pres­i­dent Wal­ter F. Mon­dale, who had won the Iowa cau­cuses.

Hours later, Hart won the New Hamp­shire pri­mary. But four days ear­lier, he dressed in a black-and­white lum­ber­jack’s shirt and joined a woods­men’s com­pe­ti­tion in Mi­lan, a far­away North Coun­try ham­let with a pop­u­la­tion of less than 1,200. He picked up a 2-pound, two-edged ax and hurled it at a wooden tar­get. It was a bulls­eye -- and a metaphor for what Weld and Yang are seek­ing: a di­rect hit on an es­tab­lished tar­get from an un­likely source.

You may say that Hart was a dreamer, to para­phrase the great po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist John Len­non. But he’s not the only one.

•••

David M. Shribman is the former ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of the Pitts­burgh Postgazett­e. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at

Shrib­manpg.

DAVID SHRIBMAN NA­TIONAL PER­SPEC­TIVE

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