On a hot, humid weekend, the big feet at the top of the Democratic field left the state to campaign elsewhere. Governor Bill Richardson and John Edwards canvassed the state with town hall meetings, and found large audiences waiting to hear their messages of change.
On Friday evening, Governor Richardson spoke to a packed house of voters after work at the Nashua Public Library. "This is a job interview," Richardson said. "I don't have the money, I'm not a rock star candidate, but I'm working on it."
"We need to take our country back, don't you agree?"
Richardson outlined six priorities, saying he would do them on the first six days of his presidency. They included bringing all troops back from Iraq in six months with no residual forces, improving education, universal health care, revitalizing the American economy and creating an energy policy that uses alternative sources of power. The sixth priority Richardson said was to remember what the nation used to be, restoring the values of democracy, civil rights and human rights.
On Sunday, John Edwards spoke directly into the sun while his audience faced him, many dangling their feet into a swimming pool in a Manchester backyard. A veteran described a homeless ceteran's shelter he organizes in Manchester, to which Edwards responded, "two words you should never hear together are homeless and veteran."
Edwards railed against special interests, urging voters to reject the power held by large insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Edwards pleaded with the crowd, asking voters to get involved as an instrument for change to take back control of their country.
"It doesn't help to have Democrats bickering with Democrats," said Edwards, referring to Senators Obama and Clinton's debate over meeting with heads of state hostile to the U.S. Richardson also addressed this issue, saying "you don't need make peace with your friends, you do it with your enemies."
In recent weeks, while Edwards has campaigned in Iowa and elsewhere, his wife, Elizabeth, has met with overflow crowds to share her husband's vision. In a front-loaded race with two well-known candidates at the top, the campaign is finding that Elizabeth Edwards is one way to keep a presence in the state when the candidate is not here.
Aware that early favorites can fail, New Hampshire voters are looking past fundraising numbers and early polls. These voters saw Governor Howard Dean rise and saw him fall. They watched then-Governor G.W. Bush give canned speeches with limited questions in New Hampshire. They saw Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter surprise the experts. And they watched Bob Dole's coronation by the republican establishment lead him to a loss in the general election.
This weekend, voters came to see for themselves who Edwards and Richardson are. Their events reflected the true essence of retail campaigning, with both candidates finding creative ways to address the flood of questions they got.
To save time, Richardson took a handful of questions at once towards the end of his event, then answered them all at once. Edwards, too, promised that if voters had questions that did not get answered, they could email his campaign, say they were at the event, and he would personally respond to their question.