We went to a taxpayer's coalition barbeque in Hillsborough today, attracted by the prospect of PJ O'Rourke as featured speaker. The candidates for governor, senate, and representative - at least from the tax-cutting side - were there to meet and greet, plus speak for about five minutes each.
You can expect a high concentration of overweight middle-aged guys named Dave, a demographic I don't need to be introduced to, at such events. Nor was mine the only Hawaiian shirt. I hadn't counted on such a showing of earnest young people, however. Many of them were working on the various campaigns, but some where there as paid admission. There were fewer of the eccentric libertarian crew than I expected as well. Gold bugs, gun advocates, guys (nearly always guys) with long grey hair and odd glasses who have lots of bumperstickers and hand-lettered charts. We've had them here in NH a long time. Those were what I remembered as the bumperticker people from my youth, in fact. If you saw a car at a distance with multiple stickers, you were sure to find a fundamentalist or a libertarian. Nowadays, multiple bumperstickers is far more often a liberal environmentalist.
There were a few of the old-school guys, however, and it's nice to see that the breed hasn't died out. From the looks of them, it may not be many more decades before the last one expires.
There are real candidates and people who haven't a clue why they aren't real candidates. Tracy paid close attention to the former, and may have changed her mind about where her vote is going. Many people used to count on Tracy doing all the research and call her up the day before the election to find out who to vote for. She was up to eight at one point, plus whoever she influenced less deterministicly. She may be back in business again - she is on this, folks, if you are voting in NH.
These are not nuanced crowds, not a place you can say "I'm generally in favor of small government, but believe that infrastructure promotes growth." The people in the crowd could all understand that position, agree with it or no, but that's not the mood of the place. They want plain speech, core concepts, delivered well. Think fastballs in baseball. This is one of the cultural differences that make liberals wince, convincing them yet again that they do not think these people are very smart, and do not want to associate with them.
Liberal culture requires that you mix in a few curve balls, just to prove you can. The audience also congratulates itself on being willing to be exposed to new ideas this way, and everyone is reassured they are the more intelligent ones. The new ideas wash wash away with the next tide, but they have to be there, like parsley, so you'll know you're at a restaurant and not just eating at home. (Wouldn't be parsley anymore, though - pear/gorgonzola/walnut salad is more like it.) Spitballs are even better, as everyone can pretend it's really just a heckuva curveball, not an illegal pitch. It's mostly still just fastballs, though, with a fair number of brushback pitches.
Continuing the analogy, the conservative weakness is that they have a lot of pitchers who walk too many batters, missing with those fastballs too often.
PJ was a bit disappointing. His speech was mostly a series of strung-together one-liners from his book, grouped loosely around the theme that Democrats may be insane, but Republicans aren't saviors. Best one-(okay, two-) liner: I tend to vote for Republicans because they have fewer ideas. But not few enough. It was a message that didn't sit well with everyone. The real candidates had all mentioned the Republican brand name a few times in their five minutes. But it was a good corrective and reminder for this crew. When people get put in charge of things and then are sent off together with a bunch of money, bad things can happen. His famous quote giving money to politicians is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys has been slightly updated, as has the one about government not being able to deliver mail (and it's got our address right on the envelope), which now is used as a health-care illustration.
For those who like to weigh in charisma factors because of electability, know that Ovide Lamontagne is quite good, and Jennifer Horn has real charm and perhaps some star power. I liked Rich Ashooh as well, but I may be biased because of a personal connection.