Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Memories of the '96 New Hampshire Primary

Twelve years ago, I drove to New Hampshire with some friends to campaign for presidential candidate Steve Forbes in the 1996 Republican primary. The New Hampshire primary in 1996 was much later than this year's -- it took place on February 20 instead of January 8.

Forbes attracted a lot of libertarian support that year. In fact, despite having his name only on the Republican ballot, he placed fourth in the Libertarian Party primary as a write-in candidate, just as he did as an official candidate in the Republican Party primary (behind Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole, and Lamar Alexander).

Many of the volunteers we met in Manchester, Concord, Exeter, and other towns told us, without prompting, that they were libertarian by philosophy but that Steve Forbes was the candidate who resonated the most with them. (That they were not campaigning for Harry Browne or Irwin Schiff in the New Hampshire Libertarian primary that year says a lot about Forbes' appeal.)

Besides campaigning for Forbes, I wrote about the primary campaign for The Metro Herald. If I can find those articles in my files between now and February 20, I may post them here.

For now, here are some of the photos I took in the several days preceding the election and on election day itself -- including the Forbes Victory Party in Manchester on the night the results came in. It truly felt like a victory party, too, despite the fourth-place finish. The crowd was animated, enthusiastic, and ready to go forward to real victories (which eventually took place in Delaware and Arizona, the two state primaries won by Forbes that year). It helped that the emcee of the celebration was Joan Rivers, not only a celebrity in her own right but also a longtime friend of Steve Forbes and his family.

This is one of my favorite photographs from the 1996 New Hampshire primary. It shows Steve Forbes among supporters and TV cameras just after he got off the campaign bus. Several months later, I asked him to sign the picture for me, and it now hangs on my living-room wall.

Whatever happened to MTV's "Choose or Lose" campaign? It was a big deal in 1996, and MTV threw a huge reception in Manchester for young voters and campaign volunteers.

I snapped this picture in the state capital of Concord. I've always been amused by the intersection of "Church" and "State" streets.

Speaking of Concord, it seemed that an orchard of campaign signs had sprouted on the grounds of the State Capitol itself.

Here I am among the blossoms.

Few remember that former California Congressman Bob Dornan (known as "B-1 Bob" for his pro-defense positions) was a candidate for president in 1996. Dornan was the xenophobic candidate that year, sort of like Tom Tancredo but far more colorful. Here he is with my friend, David Brown of Charlottesville, who was campaigning for Steve Forbes in 1996 and this year is in New Hampshire campaigning for Ron Paul. I wonder how many other Forbes supporters from the Class of '96 are activists for Dr. Paul this year?

Although we were working for Forbes, somehow we found ourselves at a Lamar Alexander rally at Phillips Exeter Academy. Here are my friends Tom Jamerson (right) and David Brown on the academy grounds before the rally.

Inside an auditorium at Phillips Exeter, Lamar! -- that's what his campaign signs said -- was introduced by fellow Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. What has he been doing lately?

Back outside, Tom Jamerson, David Brown, and I showed our support for the other side. Someone -- perhaps a Lamar! supporter -- was kind enough to take a snapshot.

Back at Forbes headquarters in Manchester, staffers and volunteers were watching the candidate in a TV interview.

The candidate himself looks confident leaning out of the campaign bus.

Journalist Deroy Murdock (left), whom we picked up along the way in New York, covered Forbes and other candidates in the days leading up to the election. Here he is with a Forbes staff member.

The election night party burst with color. Here I am ready to celebrate.

We also wanted people to know that Steve Forbes' supporters came from far and wide.

Like Ron Paul today, Steve Forbes had a strong contingent of youthful supporters.

Here is Joan Rivers arriving to host the festivities. That had to be at least three faces ago.

Maybe four faces ago.

Despite what must have been a disappointing finish, candidate Steve Forbes and one of his daughters appear exuberantly happy.

This is just a reminder of why New Hampshire is important in American history, over and above its place as the "first in the nation" primary state. It's no accident that President Jed Bartlet first served as New Hampshire's governor.


Sean Tubbs said...

Small world.

I was also at Forbes' campaign headquarters on the night of the '96 Republican Primary. I was working for New Hampshire Public Radio, and I was assigned to his headquarters. It was the cap to a long campaign in which I interviewed many of the candidates, and was struck by how amazing the NH primary actually is. During that time I:

-almost his Steve Forbes wife in the head with my boom microphone
-stuttered very embarrasingly when questioning Honey Alexander about her finances
-had my batteries on my Marantz tape recorder run out while interviewing Phil Gramm

Everyone should get the chance to experience something like New Hampshire. The first day I arrived at my new home in Lebanon, Bob Dole was down the street having a rally. To pay the bills, I worked at a pizza place which was once rented by Lamar Alexander for a day.

So, thanks for the memories!

Jack Faw said...

Thanks Rick, for recognising that there may be similarities. Yes, I supported Steve Forbes, have proudly displayed his bumper sticker on my truck until a few months ago, when I covered it with a Ron Paul sticker. I was thrilled to receive a photograph of Steve with his family in a Chrismas card in '96. I loved that Flat Tax idea. I also was a fan of Bob Dornan and thought he could speak as well as Alan Keys that year.
Jack Faw