Before leaving for "Hart's Location, First in the Nation" I talk with the registrant at the hotel where I'm staying. He is "leaning toward" Dean. NH voters seem to seldom say whom they are "voting for" sure. They want their options to remain open it seems. He was `leaning' toward Braun, but now is going with her endorsement to Dean. There are more Dean and Clark signs in North NH than any others, though I did see one big Kerry sign in Conway. I arrive a half-hour early in the community center of North Conway, an ongoing basketball game is happening before the General arrives. The rest of the crowd is waiting outside, there's a line of people. The score is 68-65 with only a few minutes remaining. A little bit later it's 71-69--tight game. A three pointer seemingly makes it 71-72 at the buzzer, but the guy only flips it to 71-70 jokingly as they walk off the court; I guess time ran out.... OK, the doors are opening now.... The crowd begins to wander in, chairs are set out, and the room fills to about 150 persons over the next fifteen minutes.
Clark seems like one hell of a good guy. He's a genuine and determined candidate, who unfortunately surrounded himself with bad advice. The only thing that stands out in his speech is that he tells of having decided at church to run for President, which would mean the Sunday before he announced on Wednesday, did't know that before... Following his speech, I looked him eye to eye as we shake hands, the kind of stone eyes I like, saw the same look in Dean. "General, Keep Fighting"--I am thinking of beyond the primaries. His is a great voice for the Democratic Party: `I will... Thank you very much', he responds.
At the Clark rally, I talked with a Republican woman. She'd picked up a bundle of pamphlets, and I asked her if she planned on reading those all before she voted tomorrow. She told me that she never figured how a person could remain undecided the day before an election, but here she was... Clark & Lieberman, she thought. Her husband is a Republican, she voted for Gore. She can't stand Kerry, and was polled only once, in a comparison poll of Dean vs. Kerry-- She said "Dean" to every question. She tells me she's a military family, a West Point person comes into the arena, she gives him a hug, and he later gets to meet Wes, before the rally. She tells me "that damn Kerry is going to win". The crowd here is very different than the Kerry rally. Very few of these people are Democratic Party establishment types; there are more Independents, and `reformed Republican' as one person identifies himself.
On the way to Hart's Location, I spotted a huge DFA sign, and stop by to talk with a staffer, who expected Lieberman to get votes, as well as Clark and Kerry, perhaps even Edwards. The staffer is interested in how many showed up at the Clark rally, and is psyched at the number, because he tells me that 300 showed up the night before at the Bartlett rally. Dean's strong in this area of the state.
When I get to the Inn, I pull out my laptop to jot down some notes, and am talking with three Japanese reporters who have been up here doing a documentary on the voters of Hart's Location--one of them mentions to me that he thinks Clark will win. I ask why, and he answers that Clark visited on January 2nd, and that's why he expects him to win.
On the wall, there's a list of the voters. 30 in total, 11 Republicans, 14 Independents and 5 Democrats are on the ballot. That's the most that will vote. If Dean is able to get 5 (a number that I heard) of the 19, that leaves 14 for the other candidates, which means that Clark might just win here tonight, Kerry might place, and Lieberman will also pick up a few votes-- that's the semi-educated guess.
The ballot lists not only the name, but also where they live. Gephardt and Braun are still listed. There's 23 names listed. The strangest is "Randy" Crow, from Wilmington North Carolina. The only local running is Edward Thomas O'Donnell, Jr. from Lebanon, NH. There are 14 persons on the Republican ticket, including a very local, Michael Callis, from Conway, NH. The polls open at 12:00 AM, and close not prior to 12:10 AM.
It's 11 PM, and the Deaniacs have arrived for visibility. There are about 7 of them here from Maryland. A Vermont television crew is outside interviewing them. A few voters have arrived, and are lingering around. I'm trying to get hooked up with a telephone line to dial-up AOL and do this live. It's a very nice atmosphere here. I talk with a couple that has some children. They've come up from a campground near by for a civic lesson. There are only a couple of reporters here, and one photographer. Great, I finally got a phone line to post this, it's about 20 minutes before the vote, I'll post an update as soon as I get the results.
Thanks to Mark Dindorf at the Notchland Inn here for the help getting access. The voting has begun!