Rep. Richard Gephardt made his first foray to New Hampshire since formally announcing his presidential campaign. And after spending a day and a half going out on a political limb — he promised his audiences a better economy, better employment and better leadership if they elect him — the reviews of his visit aren’t good.
“He didn’t do anything for me, and I’ve already seen Kerry and Dean speak up here,” says a New Hampshire senior voter. “I’m still waiting to see Lieberman and Edwards, but I like Kerry.”
Gephardt is said to be looking for a top three finish in New Hampshire, coming out of what he hopes is a decisive win in the Iowa caucuses. A top three showing in New Hampshire allows him breathing room in South Carolina and probably a ticket deeper into the Democratic primary season.
“You assume that a couple of candidates fall by the wayside after South Carolina, and we don’t want to be one of them,” says a Gephardt advance staffer. “Everyone knows we need a decent showing in New Hampshire.”
One problem with one or two candidates dropping out after South Carolina: former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean, who isn’t going to go away. “If he isn’t scaring the heck out of other candidates, he should be,” says a Sen. John Edwards campaign staffer. “He’s underfunded but a true believer. Those are the guys who always find a way to muck things up for everyone else.”
Dean has impressed other Democrats with his grassroots organizing ability, and the focus he’s displayed on the road. He has consistently spent more time in each of the early primary and caucus states than many of the other competitors, and while he doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning, he does stand to do some damage to other candidates, particularly those who decide to move slightly left during the primary season.
Dean was particularly effective at last week’s NARAL pro-abortion dinner, speaking from the little black stone that passes as his heart, about his desire to see an unborn child aborted because he was certain the child was the product of incest. “His comments were far more powerful and persuasive than some of the others up there on stage,” says a NARAL board member. “Gephardt and Kerry and Edwards were just all right. It was Dean and Sharpton that everyone was talking about later on in the evening.”