The New Hampshire preview

Everything you could have wanted in a story about Tuesday's big event.

Published February 1, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Quote from a flinty Yankee character in some out-of-the-way town talking about all the presidential candidates he's met this winter.

Humorous juxtaposition of all the other candidates of New Hampshire primaries past who at one point also met that flinty Yankee character.

List of this year's crop -- Democrats Bill Bradley and Al Gore; Republicans George W. Bush, John McCain, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, and Alan Keyes -- and observation that the seven men are participating in a presidential "beauty contest" tradition dating back to 1952.

Assertion that "critics" of current primary system are distressed that a state with the ninth smallest population in the nation gets this honor.

Quote from academic or esteemed state politician justifying state's first-in-the-nation status. Discussion of how the small size of the state allows candidates a great deal of interaction with voters. Back-up of this assertion with a statistic -- perhaps the one that shows how more than a third of all primary voters meet at least one presidential candidate during the campaign.

Boast that no candidate in this century has ever gone on to win the presidency without first winning the New Hampshire primary. (Qualifier about President Bill Clinton, who managed to win after coming in second to Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas.)

Quote from current candidate about the "town meeting" format, the feisty local voter and the "testing" of one's "mettle."

Assertion that New Hampshire voters take their politics seriously; quote from local party official anticipating high voter turnout, possibly approaching 75 percent.

Brief history lesson, perhaps segueing from former Tennessee Sen. Al Gore to the late Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver, the Democratic winner at the first New Hampshire primary 48 years ago. Reminder that Kefauver beat President Harry S. Truman through an aggressive program of "retail" politics, convincing Truman to drop out of the race. Mention of the other party's race that year, and the inability of Ohio Sen. Robert Taft to understand how "retail" politics works, helping to deliver the nomination and eventually the presidency into the hands of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Observation that the New Hampshire voter loves underdogs. Quote from academic blowhard confirming that the New Hampshire voter loves underdogs.

Recount past surprises, like former Sen. Eugene McCarthy's impressive vote count against President Lyndon Johnson in 1968; former Sen. Gary Hart's victory over Walter Mondale in 1984; and Pat Buchanan's walloping of former Sen. Bob Dole in 1996.

Academic quote about ability of candidates to channel wins here into momentum for a national campaign.

Analysis of how McCain is counting on that. Mention of how he and Bush are neck and neck in polls and how a McCain win could make him a contender while a loss could be devastating.

McCain campaign spinmeister quote; Bush campaign spinmeister quote.

Paragraph about importance of solid primary showing for McCain and Bradley. Acknowledgment of superior organization of Bush and Gore. Follow with an implicit longing that McCain and Bradley do well, both for the benefit of a good race, and a more interesting few months for us journalists.

Point out how almost 40 percent of New Hampshire voters are independents, while 35 percent or so are Republicans and 25 percent or so are Democrats. Analysis of how independents can vote in either the GOP or the Democratic primary, and how some candidates are torn between supporting liberal Bradley and conservative McCain because of their inability to decide between "authenticity" and "straight talk."

Conclude with anecdote about Dixville Notch, northern New Hampshire "town" consisting of 29 employees of a resort, whose citizens have voted, tabulated, and released voting results by 12:05 a.m. on primary day.

News scoop that Bush has telephoned every one of the 29 residents in an attempt to top McCain, who has visited Dixville Notch twice.

Brief profile of 101-year-old Neil Tillotson, owner of the resort and inventor of the Dixville Notch conceit.

Analogy of how Dixville Notch is to New Hampshire as New Hampshire is to the country. Folksy quote from Tillotson, bringing it all home to what matters most: how the people of New Hampshire represent the importance of exercising the right to vote.

By Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

MORE FROM Jake Tapper

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Al Gore Democratic Party George W. Bush John Mccain R-ariz.