Thoughts On Primary Eve

--I'm not the first to say this, but the idea that an Obama surge takes independent votes from McCain is mostly a myth. However, the growing belief that Obama will be the nominee is having an impact. It's hurting McCain with some Republican voters, who think it would be disaster to put an old man against the youthful Obama. But others think Obama can only be beaten by an "experience" candidate. My sense is that there are more Republicans thinking the former than the latter.

--McCain is also seriously hurt here by the level of animosity the NRA has toward him over the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform law, which significantly limits the campaign spending and influence of groups like the NRA. NRA-influenced voters I've spoken with seem more willing to forgive Giuliani's and Romney's actual past support of gun-control laws than to forgive McCain.

--On the other hand, everyone up here really likes McCain, even those who aren't planning to vote for him. Almost nobody likes Romney... even the ones who ARE planning to vote for him.

--Ron Paul is doing anti-Romney robo-calls, and they're having some effect. There's a tipping point, though -- many people here have had it with the incessant intrusion of the rather zealous Paul supporters.

--Perhaps this is merely anecdotal, but I think it's pervasive: nobody even pretends that issues have anything to do with their Obama/Clinton decision.

--The great unanalyzed aspect of this year's New Hampshire primary, in my opinion, is the effect of the November 2006 elections here. Control of both legislative houses, and both US Congress seats, went from the state Republicans to the Democrats. That had an enormous psychic effect on the apparatchiks of both parties, and very real effects on jobs, power, influence, willingness to take risks, etc. etc. etc. And remember that the Presidential nominees they're helping to choose tomorrow could determine the down-ticket offices, including whether the Democrats retain what they've taken -- and more. I spoke briefly with GOP Senator John Sununu yesterday, and couldn't help thinking that if Mike Huckabee is the face of the Republican Party this year, Jeanne Shaheen is a shoo-in.

--Clinton is far from dead if she loses tomorrow. In fact, you'll recall that I predicted she would lose Iowa and New Hampshire to Obama and still win the nomination. Think of Super Tuesday as the start of the playoffs, when the games start to matter -- both Clinton and Obama have clinched playoff spots already; they have widespread support and financial resources. Right now they're playing for position and momentum.

--Romney is also far from dead, because none of the other Republicans have clinched the playoffs yet either (although Huckabee is close to it), so he's far from eliminated -- especially since financial resources are not an issue for him.

--I foresee a major problem on New Hampshire roadways tomorrow. There are thousands upon thousands of small signs -- roughly 15"x24", varying -- each on two skinny metal posts jammed into the roadside snow. This strange January thaw is melting that snow right out from under the posts: by mid-afternoon I saw a few down completely on 111, and hundreds upon hundreds with most of the posts exposed. If tomorrow is really in the mid- to upper-50s as forecast, especially if the sun comes out, it's gonna be a mess.

--Speaking of those signs, there is nothing that exposes the careful science of political marketing more than those things. With very few exceptions, they are all dark blue with white lettering, and usually a splash of American-flag red somewhere. They are so similar that the slightest difference in shading (McCain's blue is slightly different) or amount of red (Huckabee's has a broader swipe along the bottom) stands out.

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