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News ::
Dean, followers seeing stars in N.H. (english)
24 Aug 2003
Manchester, population 110,000, is the largest city in New Hampshire and home to one of the most conservative newspapers in America. Mayor Bob Baines said that "there is an electricity around (Dean's) campaign and I haven't seen that kind of electricity since Ronald Reagan. He has the persona"
Dean, followers seeing stars in N.H.
Susan Smallheer, The Rutland Herald, VT, August 24, 2003
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- You'd think he was a rock star.

Howard Dean has jammed with his guitar at blues clubs on the campaign trail. And Friday, surrounded by TV cameras, micro-phones and fans, the Democratic rising star met with a pair of real music legends -- and came away with their endorsement.

Two-thirds of the famed 1970s folk-rock group Crosby, Stills & Nash -- David Crosby and Graham Nash -- parked their customized motor homes at the Derry-field Park in downtown Manchester to visit and endorse their favorite presidential candidate.

With a cluster of national photographers and TV crews waiting, Dean emerged from a bus with an enormous smile on his face.

The angry side of the candidate, who has made his name berating both President George Bush and his fellow Democrats, was far away on a lovely summer afternoon, even with thunderstorms threatening.

Crosby and Nash signed a young Dean volunteer's Martin guitar and, finally, so did the boss.

"Crosby, Nash and Dean?" the former governor asked, laughing.

Dean, in a white shirt and tie, his suit jacket off in the afternoon heat, was an unlikely match for the T-shirt-clad music legends.

"You want me to sign this $600 guitar?" he said, still the practical candidate.

The two dozen or more Dean staffers and volunteers, most of whose parents might have listened to the two stars in the late 1960s and '70s, crowded around, treating Dean like a star.

After a few more words, the two old hippies were back on their buses and Dean turned his attention to television interviews with national outlets: Fox and ABC.

As for Stephen Sills, the third member of the famous trio? He's endorsed Kerry, a Dean staffer said.

The made-for-cameras interlude Friday in Dean's recent three-day campaign swing in New Hampshire might raise a few Vermonters' eyebrows.

It's been said before, but it's not an overstatement: Dean, in the political summer of 2003, has become a bonafide star.

From being called the darkest of dark horses a year ago, Dean, confident and buoyant, and on the verge of a four-day Sleepless Summer Tour that will take him to from New York to Seattle, Chicago, San Antonio and back, is the happy frontrunner on this hot summer day.

'An electricity'

The mayor of Manchester is a former high school principal, and he has that in-charge charm that lets people know he's on top of things.

Manchester, population 110,000, is the largest city in New Hampshire and home to one of the most conservative newspapers in America. It's about three times the size of Burlington, Vt.

Its mayor, Bob Baines, a Democrat, has endorsed no candidate as yet for the New Hampshire presidential primary, currently scheduled for Jan. 27. "It's very early," he said.

Baines, who was principal for 20 years at Manchester's West High School, said the real test for candidates in his long political experience is talking to high school students. And that hasn't happened yet in the campaign, he said.

"I'm eager to see him in front of a group of students," Baines said.

If candidates shade their answers to questions, if they dissemble, it's crystal clear. "Kids can see right through the candidates," he said.

Baines said the race for the nomination seems to be narrowing to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Dean -- who is the current Democratic frontrunner, according to the latest polls. When Baines does endorse someone, it will be based on who offers the best challenge to Bush, he said.

Baines, who is completing his second mayoral term, said a recent Dean event caught his attention in a big way.

A house party Wednesday night at the home of a Manchester School Board member was remarkable, not for what Dean said, but the response he provoked.

Baines said the only thing comparable was when Reagan was campaigning for president in the winter of 1979-80.

"It was at the state armory in Manchester and he walked in and said, 'I paid for this microphone.' You could see what was going on," Baines said.

"There is an electricity around (Dean's) campaign and I haven't seen that kind of electricity since Ronald Reagan," Baines said.

'He has the persona'

Dick Decloux, 71, of Manchester, a retired MIT-educated engineer who worked in New Hampshire's early high tech industry, was literally sitting on the fence at the ballgame Friday.

Baines and Decloux had both come to Derryfield Park to watch the two softball games, part of a summer tournament between the staffs of the Democratic candidates.

In one diamond of the hilltop park was a match between the Dean Team and the staff of Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. In another corner of the park were the staffs of Sens. Joseph Lieberman and John Kerry. The winner of that contest would face the Dean team.

Dean's crew had jumped out to an early start, 6-1, but Gephardt wasn't giving up. They closed the gap to 6-3.

"We had a big start, they're going to creep up on us," Dean said.

Dean's staff trounced Gephardt forces, 14-3.

Dean, whose New Hampshire field director kept urging him to leave the game and go back to the office to make more calls seeking support and money, stayed for the entire game.

Finally, with the game in the bag and his team victorious and sweaty, he left in his maroon van.

As for Decloux, he hasn't been involved in any of the presidential primary hoopla for more than 20 years, he said. He's an independent, but Dean has the leadership qualities that Decloux thinks are essential to be the next president.

"You can't stay out this time," he said, his cane resting between his legs.

When all is said, Decloux said, it won't be the issues that will make him decide. Dean speaks honestly and is not calculated, like the other candidates.

Decloux gives an example involving a New Hampshire controversy over a new law on parental notification. Rather than dance around the issue, he said, or even say it was a local issue that a president wouldn't be involved in, Dean jumped in with both feet.

Dean, a physician, opposes blanket parental notification, even though he thinks parents should be involved. It is those difficult cases that makes such a law untenable, Decloux said, interpreting Dean's stand.

"He said what he thought and he didn't really care if people agreed with him. He has the persona," Decloux says, putting his hand at the center of his chest. "I think he's got the best shot," Decloux said.

'Dean Concord'

Dean arrived in New Hampshire on Wednesday evening, and he's been shaking hands and talking to cameras ever since.

Friday morning, he visited GT Equipment Technologies Inc. in Merrimack, an alternative energy firm that manufactures solar panels and other renewable energy equipment.

Kedar Gupta, the president and CEO of the firm, wore a large blue and white Dean button, as did the top staff of the firm, as he welcomed Dean and his press entourage to his new manufacturing facility.

Dean, whose own Vermont administration failed to gain approval for renewable energy legislation in 2002 because of the staunch opposition of IBM, said that as long as President Bush wouldn't challenge the Saudis on their support of terrorism and the United States remained firmly dependent on foreign oil, firms like Gupta's wouldn't reach their full potential.

GT Equipment does most of its business with Europe, and employees asked Dean questions about genetically engineered food, his policy on international trade, health insurance and how he was going to fight "Big Oil."

While Bush is collecting big checks, Dean said he is collecting lots of smaller checks, $80 on average. And come November 2004, he said, it's a matter of votes.

Dean said it was too soon to decide whether he would take matching federal campaign funds, which would limit him to a $45 million campaign. Right now, he said, it's his intention to "take the match."

That decision is at least five months away, he said. And while his campaign has been very successful in fund-raising for one quarter, the next two periods are critical.

"Can we take on George Bush with $45 million?" Dean said.

Dean also opened his Concord headquarters, a tiny office on Pleasant Street Extension, a few steps away from Concord's Main Street, where his Kerry's office already occupies a large and prominent storefront.

As Dean walked down the sidewalk, followed by cameras and reporters, his young staffers chanted: "Dean Came, Dean Saw, Dean Concord."
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