I forget how few of you are in NH, and that part of my responsibility is to let you know what the primary looks and sounds like from inside.
The Edwards and Thompson signs are few but very large; one never knows what that translates to in support. There are lots of Obama bumper-stickers, but not so may signs. Hillary and Romney have more signs out than the others, but not so many that they dwarf the others. Ron Paul, especially, is not dwarfed. His supporters, 8% of the Republican likely voters though they be, are clearly into getting signs out, including big ones. Those sometimes seem to be in odd places, though I can’t put my finger on what that is. McCain has mostly small signs, but a fair number. The small dark-blue background McCain, Romney, and Thompson signs look similar enough that they are becoming ambiguous – political signs for some generic Republican. Which is fine with me, as that is what I plan to vote for: a generic Republican. Huckabee’s and Tancredo’s signs are different enough to stand out a bit.
Giuliani and Richardson must have signs out, but I don’t recall any.
The phone rings daily with invitations to hear candidates, or from pollsters of varying legitimacy, or recorded statements. Ron Paul’s people are apparently big on recorded messages too.
For those who like to read the tea-leaves from a single voter’s mind, this is how it looks three weeks out. Giuliani has dropped off my list, and I am actively hoping for him to do poorly here. I liked Huckabee during his rise, but have decided he is a social conservative who is too centrist on foreign policy and too liberal on economic policy for my taste. My wife still likes him, and she’s got a sign in the yard. I’ll be following the polls and Iowa results closely, as I want to vote for Thompson if it looks like he has a fighting chance. Otherwise I will vacillate between Romney and McCain, each of whom I like for different reasons.
Ron Paul was never on my list, as I see him as only partly libertarian. Nationwide, libertarians are getting excited at the boost he’s giving their ideas, but I think that they misread NH at least. Their conventional wisdom is that Dr. Paul is charisma-impaired and a little odd, so his intense support must be based on affection for his ideals. Not in NH, though even the Democrats have a libertarian streak here. There is a significant subset of Republicans here who seem to rejoice in contrariness. They want to be “a different sort of conservative, not like you others.” A lot of them voted for Buchanan and Perot, neither of which would be considered particularly libertarian. These contrarians don’t necessarily agree with these candidates’ positions, but with their “outcast, bloody-but-unbowed” images.
Which is fine, by the way. The tribe needs a certain amount of that going on to be healthy. They are the yeast of society.