(Host) After two years of campaigning in neighboring New Hampshire, Howard Dean finds himself sprinting from behind as he nears the end of the marathon. Despite his name recognition with New Hampshire voters, the candidate is still trying to answer the question – who is the real Howard Dean?
VPR’s John Dillon has been on the campaign trail.
(Dillon) Two of the top rivals in the New Hampshire primary are both regional candidates. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Howard Dean are familiar faces to their Granite State neighbors.
Dean told reporters in Nashua yesterday he’s counting that his well-worn path across the border will bring votes on Tuesday.
(Dean) “Most people in New Hampshire have lived next door to me for twelve years and are very familiar with the policy discussions that we’ve had.”
(Dillon) But after the former governor lost the Iowa caucuses on Monday, the questions that follow him in New Hampshire deal with 30 seconds of videotape of his frenzied – and now famous – concession speech.
Windsor Democratic Senator Peter Welch is a Dean supporter. He says the candidate has a lot of ground to recover in New Hampshire.
(Welch) “The very big challenge for Howard Dean is to give people a sense of confidence in his demeanor and in his temperament. And he’s got to do that by meeting people and putting on display his knowledge, his calmness and his record.”
(Dillon) After Thursday night’s debate outside Manchester, a swarm of reporters and camera crews cluster around campaign officials in what’s called the spin room. It’s an opportunity for Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi to put his best face on his candidate’s sagging poll numbers.
(Trippi) “Look, we went through six weeks of just being hammered. Attack, respond, attack, respond – that’s what happens when you became the front-runner. That’s what happened to Bill Clinton in 1991.”
(Dillon) Twelve years ago, candidate Bill Clinton finished a strong second in New Hampshire after being pummeled in the polls. The news then was about Clinton’s personal life. Dean’s image problem is much different, but his campaign hopes for another New Hampshire resurrection.
Michael Dupre, a Saint Anselm College professor of sociology, says Dean is doing all the right things to recover. His schedule has included many face-to-face meetings with voters.
(Dupre) “New Hampshire is a small state politically, you get out on the street, in the barbershops, the salons and the diners. People talking – that’s what brings it around in a short period of time. Whether he can do it by Tuesday, that’s another matter. But can it be done, yeah, it’s not impossible.”
(Dillon) Besides the time factor, Dupre says John Kerry is well-known in New Hampshire’s most populous counties.
(Dupre) “Do not overlook the fact that Senator Kerry has been on the ballot in Massachusetts since 1982. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of the increase in population in Rockingham and Hillsboro Counties has been from Massachusetts. It’s migration. They’ve got a name they’ve either voted for, or they’re familiar with.”
(Dillon) Dean has talked himself hoarse in recent days. He tries at every stop to keep voters – and the media – focused on his key issues.
(Dean) “Polls, there are the polls. I can’t do anything about the polls. But I can do something about how hard I work and what my message is in the last four days, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
(Dillon) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.
(Host) VPR’s Patti Daniels contributed to this report.