Don's diary

February 11, 2000


Finish exam marking and fly to Boston. Met by Bill Gardner, New Hampshire's secretary of state. It is snowing heavily. Stop for pizza at Mamma Luci's. The primary is three days away. Bill's excited: "It's gonna be the best ever." He predicts victories for Bill Bradley and John McCain, who are each seeking presidential nomination from their parties - the Democrats and Republicans respectively.


Bradley rally in Concord. Big media scrum but the candidate seems unconcerned. His student workers gaze starry-eyed at him throughout. Robert Reich, ex-Clinton labor secretary, is there, all four foot six of him. He stands on a crate to see over the lectern. Cracking speech. Maybe he should be running.

Dinner at Nat Flanagan's. She supports George Bush Jnr for the Republican nomination but thinks he is running a bad campaign - too imperial, too laid-back. He is riding for a fall. Why should he care? He has millions of dollars and McCain's almost broke.

Nat's mad because her neighbour deliberately nailed "McCain" signs up on the telegraph poles too high for her to tear them down.


Bedlam in Gardner's State House office. Reporters everywhere. Phones ring incessantly. I get collared for interviews with Voice of America and The Nation.

McCain rally. Good speech, then McCain swallowed up by the crowds. Seems momentarily disconcerted. The crush is overwhelming but I manage a handshake. He looks like a president.


Primary day: tension mounting. Al Gore, the favourite for the Democrat nomination, and Bradley are neck and neck in this New Hampshire primary. The Bush campaign is facing meltdown.

We reminisce in Bill's office about past primaries. Was an elephant called Tanya once entered as a candidate? Nope. The secretary remembers a live gorilla once, but no elephants.

In the evening I do three hours of radio commentary for BBC 5-Live. Media are in "tent city" in hotel basement - a sea of blue cloth cubicles, cameras and cables.

11.15 pm. In the hotel lobby, victorious, vengeful Gore supporters crowd around a television. "Gore wins big!" the announcer says. One Gore worker growls:

"Better get real used to us, you sonofabitch!"

McCain has wiped Bush out. I receive a red plastic garland from candidate "Vermin Supreme". I wonder how many votes he got.


Freezing to death at Trailways terminal waiting for bus to Boston.

Buses packed with departing campaigners and reporters. By tomorrow, they say, the biggest news story in New Hampshire will be that a moose ate some old lady's garbage. And I have a staff appraisal. It is pumpkin time for us all.

Niall Palmer lectures in American studies at Brunel University.

Features, page 18-19.

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