Local News

Primary Voters: Edwards Needs More Face Time In New Hampshire

Posted April 25, 2003 11:49 a.m. EDT

— The New Hampshire primary is only nine months away and is a crucial test for Sen. John Edwards' presidential run. WRAL's David Crabtree visited New Hampshire to talk with voters and those who cover New Hampshire politics to see how they feel about North Carolina's senior senator.

New Hampshire looks like a postcard. Mountain farms, waterfalls and lots American flags. The big game here is retail politics, where candidates shop for votes, but voters do not always buy.

The state motto is "Live free or die." There is no sales tax, no state income tax, no seat belt law for those over 17, and no helmet law.

The Merrimac River is the spine of the state. On the Manchester side, you will find flags and conservatism; in the capital of Concord you will find liberals, and thousands of independents can be found in the middle. Most take their right to vote seriously.

"Sometimes 70 percent of the eligible voters turn out," said John DiStaso, chief political reporter for the largest paper in the state. "This is a true election. We do have the first true election."

For 23 years, DiStaso covered presidential politics. He rates John Edwards as "the one to watch."

Some voters would like to watch him, but Edwards has not spent much time here, yet.

"Nobody's ever heard of John Edwards," said Andrew Cline, the editorial page editor of the

Manchester Union Leader,

a self-proclaimed conservative paper. Cline is a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate who worked for the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh.

"It's going to be tough to get a foothold in New Hampshire," he said.

Cline said that is mainly because of the competition: Sen. John Kerry is from Massachusetts and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is also well known.

How well do average New Hampshire know who John Edwards is?

WRAL talked with voters on the streets and in diners known for presidential politics. Responses varied when they were shown a campaign button that showed Edwards' face, but not his name.

"No I can't tell ya," said a voter.

"No, I haven't [seen him before]," said another.

"I think he's a very bright, articulate young man. He's got a great personality. He's got a great way with people," said Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-New Hampshire.

"It's Edwards. He resembles Ralph Green. I know that what he stands for I appreciate," voter Frank Jopp said.

Edwards' poll numbers are currently low, but history shows that could play to his advantage.

"People that traditionally do well here are people who aren't known a year out -- people like Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Gary Hart -- who've done great in the primary," said Colin Van Oster, of the Edwards campaign.

A primary that is more than a snapshot in presidential politics.

Edwards will make two campaign stops in New Hampshire next week. His office said he will be back many times before the January primary.