Here are the posts from The Hotline's Marc Ambinder. He followed McCain through the Granite State's North Country.
March 23, 2007
The Roadshow: New Hampshire
MEREDITH, NH -- The Straight Talk Express rumbles to life tomorrow morning in a converted church parking lot about 56 miles and an $120 dollar Queen Anne's cab ride north of Manchester. Sen. John McCain is here on a make-up mission. A week ago, his progress got stuck in the snow. He'll make a day-long arc along the feeder bands of Lake Winnipesaukee (that's where Mitt Romney summers) with town hall stops in Littleton, North Conway and Plymouth.
It's not an Express. It's a Local. McCain is bringing several campaign aides from headquarters along for the trip. They're supposed to watch McCain interact with reporters and reporters interact with McCain. Save your money: he calls us "jerks" and we say "please sir, can I have another?" The A-tier reporters get personal ribbing by McCain. It's a "sign of affection."
Believe it or not, McCain is still the guy to beat in New Hampshire. Not a single reputable poll has shown him behind other Republicans. (Right, Mark Blumenthal?) It's fair to say that his nomination quest will be an exceedingly uphill slog if he doesn't win the state he won in 2000. I don't think he has to win Iowa, but I'll save those thoughts for an Iowa trip.
March 24, 2007
The Roadshow: McCain's Now Optimistic About Iraq
Littleton Republicans greeted Sen. John McCain like an old friend, and he returned the favor. He was (a), on time, and (b) full of energy. Some of his self-protective senior advisers blanch when they read news reports about how McCain, eight years older, seems slower, more hesitant, less springy. How do these reporters know? Do they measure the reach of his hand gestures and compare it to old video footage?
Regardless, McCain was spry. And he was optimistic. A reporter asked him whether he was now optimistic about the future of Iraq. "I think it's fair to say that I'm optimistic," he said. He ticked off a list of reasons why (a pacified Sadr, more clean neighborhoods, better intelligence, more cooperation between U.S. and Iraqi troops, etc). And he'll have the chance to confirm his optimism first-hand when he visits next week. He blasted House Democrats for passing "an intellectually dishonest" troop withdrawal bill that was "laden with pork." It's "the most shameful" thing he's ever seen as a Senator.
"We will win," he told the Littletown crowd. It's not a line he would have used a few months ago.
He was asked about the Iranian capture of British troops. America, he said, should be prepared to used "very stringent" measures if they're not released. After a lengthy discussion about campaign finance reform initiated by conservative blogger Matt Lewis, McCain grew tired one of one line of questioning about public financing. When ABC's Terry Moran asked him how much he thought his campaign would cost, McCain shook his head. "I don't want to talk about... you know, I'll just talk about anything else you want, but I'm bored with this one."
Roadshow: New Hampshire, North Of Manchester
LITTLETON, NH -- There are Republicans in New Hampshire north of Concord. Really. "As far as I know," one Republican said to McCain, "you're the only candidate who has gone past Concord. All of the other candidates think there's nothing north of Concord."
Technically, Rudy Giuliani's roadshow wandered up here and Mitt Romney summers on Lake Winnepisaukee. But most candidates confine their appearances to the vote rich region from the northernmost limits of the Concord city line, South. Only about 25 percent of the state voters live among the lakes and in the small towns among the White Mountains to the North. They tend to be more socially and economically conservative than Republicans who live in the suburbs of Massachusetts.
When voters dumped Reps. Charlie Bass and Jeb Bradley from office last November, Grafton County was one of the few to stay Republican. McCain's NH campaign has about a half dozen organizers working full-time in this region. McCain has noticed that voters up here ask him more questions about the economy than voters in Manchester. Everyone mentions the closing of the timber mills in Berlin. They haven't come back. Sen. Hillary Clinton has proposed converting paper mills into energy producing facilities that process ethanol. McCain said it "sounds like a good idea." (Wood can be a profitable source of ethanol.)
Voters up here take pride in their independence (duh), but major endorsements matter more here than they do a hundred miles to the South. It's harder to organize up here. That's why McCain's campaign is trying to recruit Laconia high school football coach Jim Fitzgerald. He's a two-term state rep. who knows how to put together a campaign
Rudy's Manager Tracks McCain
BERLIN, NH -- Seen at at least three McCain events in New Hampshire today:
Jim Wieczorek, the campaign manager of Rudy Giuliani.. (He even clapped a few times.)
At one point, John Weaver ambled over and introduced himself and offered to let Wieczorek ride about the Straight Talk Express. Wieczorek politely declined.
Also: a polite video-camera toting tracker from ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney's
McCain: We Won't Meet Fundraising Goals
GRAFTON CO., NH -- Sen. John McCain said his presidential campaign would not meet its fundraising goals this quarter, and his campaign advisers acknowledged that ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney may wind up raising more.
"We're going to pay a price for it because we got a late start," McCain told reporters in New Hampshire. "We're not going to meet the goals we had." He later said he did not know whether Romney would outpace him, but his advisers did not downplay that possibility. They also did not rule out finishing first.
McCain contends that his exploratory committee's opening in December and the rush of the busy holiday season did not allow his campaign to begin fundraising in earnest until January. But once that month began, owing in part to a busy Senate schedule, McCain attended only two fundraisers and only two in February. There are twenty scheduled for all of this month, and another twenty in April.
"These are moments, none of which at the end of the day impact winning the nomination," said John Weaver, McCain's chief strategist. "We're on track to do that. Every campaign would trade places with us. We wouldn't trade places with anyone else."
Some Republicans estimate that Romney, whose network of friends, business contacts and party donors is expansive, could accumulate more than $30 or even $35 million this quarter. McCain is not likely to raise in excess of $30M, according to Republicans outside his campaign who have been given the unofficial estimate. Neither Weaver nor any other McCain aide would hazard a guess about their first quarter tally.
A Romney spokesman noted that McCain had recruited more major Bush donors than any other candidate, and possesses a large direct mail list from his earlier presidential campaigns. The Romney spokesman said that McCain was trying to artificially lower expectations.
If Romney reports a higher fundraising tally on April 15, he'll not be faulted for bragging about his strength after what his aides acknowledge was a rough start to his campaign.
Both campaigns agree that two numbers due by mid-July -- six months worth of receipts and the amount of money remaining in their accounts -- are better diagnostic indicators of their candidate's viability.
Romney, in particular, will be burdened with the expectation that he ought to keep pace with McCain and end the half-year with at least $30 to $40 million in the bank. Both campaigns worry about their high burn rates. They both pay the salaries of more than 100 full-time staff members and numerous consultants. Romney even has several field organizers in Florida, placed there when the campaign presumed that the Florida Republican Party would schedule a straw poll for the fall. They ultimately did not.