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FEATURE New Hampshire Remote BY TERRY J. ALLEN New Hampshire, mid January National journalists inevitably describe New Hampshire as a quaint and quirky state full of independent-minded nonconformists. In fact, the host to the first presidential primary combines the pursed-lipped uptightness of all New England with right-wing sentiments that would be right at home in Midland. Which makes the state a natural for the George W. Bush presidential campaign. Virtually the only thing his New Hampshire supporters seem to care or talk about is that “he cut taxes twice in Texas.” From their epoxy-like attachment to the tax issue, you’d think New Hampshire residents were woefully overburdened by the high cost of social services. Actually, the Granite State coddles the rich and caters to the comfortable. As the state website boasts in bold: “Workers take home more of their pay here than in any other state in the Union. There is no general personal income tax nor general sales nor use tax.” And unlike the rest of New England, New Hampshire is a tediously conservative, cranky, me-first state, filled with rock-stolid Live-Free-or-Die, gun-supporting, libertarian-style, right-wing Republicans. Its Congressional delegation Senators Bob Smith and Judd Gregg, Representatives John E. Sununu \(yup, one of eight children of that ribbed conservatives. The largest newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader, makes the Dallas Morning News look like Workers’ World. Kay Bailey Hutchison blooms positively pink beside New Hampshire’s stunningly dumb Bob Smith, who briefly abandoned the GOP as too far left, until somebody told him the move would cost him his committee chairs. New Hampshire is also one of the few states with substantially more registered Republicans \(36 pertenths of 1 percent of the U.S. population. Some 74 percent of New Hampshire’s 285,500 registered Republicans voted in the 1996 primary while only 44 percent of the 209,300 Democrats mustered enough enthusiasm to pull the handle. \(In all, that came to fifty-six But with its Lone Star perspective that everything north of the Red River is a Yankee hellhole anyway, the Observer figured that since I live in Vermont, I must know New Hampshire which is kind of like saying if you live in Austin, you must know Beaumont. lives up to every good Texan’s worst stereotype about liberal Yankees. The People’s Republic of Vermont is home to the country’s only socialist Congressman, hands out condoms in prisons, has state-backed health and dental insurance for almost every kid, has no death penalty, and its Supreme Court has just ordered its Legislature to ensure that gay partners have rights fully equal to those of married heterosexuals. Our state flower is Ben and Jerry’s Rainforest Crunch. To enter temporary exile among New Hampshire’s craggy mountains, I drive two hours east, across Vermont’s mix of open A In the mosh pit Terry Allen pasture and forested hills. On either side of the Connecticut River, the cold brown bones of the land lie exposed by a snowless winter. Another hour and I approach Durham, site of the state university and tonight’s Republican stage show. The roadsides are dotted with indigo bouquets of campaign signs. The Alan Keyes placards have been carefully positioned to obscure the deeper blue Bush logos. Getting directions from a young couple, I ask if they will attend the event. “Nope,” says the young woman, screwdriver in hand, beside her stalled, rusty sedan. “We don’t have enough money.” “Does it cost to get in?” I ask, surprised. “Not really,” she answers, “but most of the seats went to supporters who made big donations, and the few places left over were put in a lottery. We didn’t bother.” Clearly, these two were nobody’s soundbite posterchildren for the primary system. In my mind, I brought them with me, as I waded through the mire of dreary enthusiasm and pseudo-reality that soaks the campaign like so much used crankcase oil. The first clue to the extent of campaign artifice is the press center itself, where a few hundred journalists watch the event on two giant TV screens at either end of the large, featureless hall. Sequestered a quarter-mile from the candidates, we will have no better idea of the reaction of the audience or off-camera candidates than people sitting FEBRUARY 4, 2000 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER