Welcome to New Hampshire, where it seems like everyone's met the next president

DERRY, United States -- These diner waitresses carry anecdotes of presidential candidates like so many plates of barbecued steak tips and Hungry Boy Specials.

See Full Article

The wall of pictures attests to the famous names who've wandered into MaryAnn's Diner over the years: Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Chris Christie and, just the other day, Jeb and Barbara Bush.

While scarfing down a corned-beef hash, a customer says he saw Hillary Clinton twice in the same day last week. He's less enthused by the daily phone calls he gets from pollsters.

Welcome to New Hampshire.

Being a small state that hosts an early primary means that, every fourth February, residents see their main streets, eateries and high-school gyms inundated with people aspiring to lead the free world.

Makes for pretty good gossip around the counter.

On this day, the women reminisce about their all-time favourite customer. It's a landslide consensus: the 42nd president, who worked table after table and then, when he was finished, went outside and did the same thing down the block.

"Bill Clinton," said manager Linda Guilnet, who's worked at the diner since it opened in 1989.

"He just went around to everybody. Then took a walk outside. He went down to the lights and came back."

One waitress says Ohio Gov. John Kasich stole one of her jokes, repeating it to aides: "Did you hear that that actress got stabbed, Reese what's-her-name?" "Witherspoon?" "No, with a knife."

They've just become Barbara Bush fans.

The former first lady was there with the latest family member to seek the presidency. Jeb seemed alright, they said. But his mom was a delight.

A third waitress was especially impressed by how well the 90-year-old has held up: "She don't have a damn wrinkle."

A few towns away, another New Hampsherite is less impressed that Bush has hauled out the family. Ari Pollack says he's been considering voting for Bush, but thinks leaning on mom smacks slightly of desperation.

Pollack has seen five different candidates in this election cycle. He would have seen a sixth, but the Hillary Clinton rally was full and he couldn't get in.

He's been going out because his 11-year-old son has taken an interest, and he's happy to encourage it. The boy got a signed poster from Marco Rubio on Sunday.

Who were the best performers? Rubio and Chris Christie were the most electrifying, he said -- especially the New Jersey governor, who's apparently a natural with a crowd.

But he was most impressed with Jeb.

He wasn't quite the entertainer, Pollack said, but he'd mastered every issue and pulled out well-researched, statistically-supported answers while taking every crowd question.

Elsewhere in the country, the streets don't carry much evidence of an election yet. But the snowy roadsides of New Hampshire are sprinkled with the blues, reds, and whites of competing campaign signs.

People's homes are turned into field offices. Out-of-town campaign operatives board up in spare rooms.

"It's a fun environment to be in," Pollack says.

"It will all come to an end on Tuesday -- all these buses will leave. All of you (media) folks visiting us will leave."

Some will be thrilled to see it end.

A woman at a hotel bar in Exeter grumbles about getting five or six pollsters' calls per night: "I stopped answering my phone three months ago."

The waitresses complain about media cameras bumping into customers.

One local recalls that it used to be more intimate when a politician strolled into MaryAnn's. But it now feels like the billion-dollar operation that American electioneering has become, with big entourages followed by big media hordes.

Pollack is less cynical.

He says his state has an important responsibility. Nobody has ever won the presidency in the modern primary era without performing well in one of the first two states: Iowa or New Hampshire.

That makes these few hundred thousand voters some of the most powerful in the world, and the waitresses who swap tales with these voters and journalists have power too.

"People take it pretty seriously," he said.

"We're making a decision for the rest of the nation. To at least help narrow the field, to put some candidates in front of the rest of the nation that have been vetted.

"The field is about to narrow."

So the diners should be slightly less crowded in South Carolina -- the next voting state.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Police seek public's help in locating Ontario woman last seen in 1996

    Canada News CTV News
    BECKWITH TOWNSHIP, Ont. -- Provincial police are requesting the public's assistance in locating a woman who was reported missing more than five years ago. They say Carole Dianne Roy was reported missing on May 23, 2012, but investigators say the last confirmed sighting of Roy was on Oct. Source
  • R.I. lawmaker says she was told sexual favours would help career

    World News CTV News
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A Rhode Island lawmaker says a higher-ranking legislator told her sexual favours would allow her bills to go further. Democratic Rep. Teresa Tanzi told the Providence Journal that she's among the many women who have experienced sexual assault or harassment. Source
  • Judge in Hawaii blocks latest version of Trump's travel ban

    World News CTV News
    HONOLULU -- A federal judge in Hawaii blocked the Trump administration Tuesday from enforcing its latest travel ban, just hours before it was set to take effect. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson granted Hawaii's request to temporarily block the policy that was to be implemented starting early Wednesday. Source
  • British spy chief says 'intense U.K. terrorist threat' is evolving rapidly

    World News CBC News
    Britain's domestic intelligence chief warned during a rare public speech Tuesday that the terrorist threat the country faces has accelerated at an alarming pace and is worse now than at any time in his 34-year career. Source
  • 'Absolute genuine kindness': RCMP officer replaces girls' tricycles after theft

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    BLACKS HARBOUR, N.B. — A New Brunswick Mountie is being praised for an act of kindness towards two young girls heartbroken by the theft of their tricycles. The Curtis family of Blacks Harbour, a small seaside village west of Saint John, noticed their daughters’ two tricycles missing from their driveway last week. Source
  • Dow Jones hits 23,000 mark for the first time

    World News CBC News
    The Dow Jones Industrial Average breached the 23,000-mark for the first time on Tuesday, powered by strong earnings from UnitedHealth Group and Johnson & Johnson. The blue-chip index has surpassed four similar 1,000-point milestones this year, indicating investor faith in the bull-run despite lofty stock valuations. Source
  • ISIS vows Russia World Cup slaughter

    World News Toronto Sun
    From the rubble of its crumbling caliphate, Islamic State is vowing to unleash bloodshed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. ISIS has swamped social media with photos of the front of the Volgograd Arena in southern Russia, where some of the action will take place. Source
  • Finance Minister Bill Morneau faces calls for ethics investigation over assets [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau says he’d be willing to make changes to his financial affairs if asked to do so by the federal ethics watchdog as pressure mounts over why he hasn’t put his substantial assets in a blind trust. Source
  • Residential school survivors can proactively preserve documents: Bennett

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says there is a proactive effort underway to tell residential school survivors that their records can still be preserved if they so choose. The move comes after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled earlier this month that records detailing the abuse of former students can eventually be destroyed. Source
  • Google sister company makes 'bold bet' with new tech-focused neighbourhood 'Sidewalk Toronto'

    Canada News CBC News
    Waterfront Toronto has announced that Sidewalk Labs, Google's city-building sister company, will be its partner in creating a new tech-focused neighbourhood on the eastern Toronto waterfront. Reports began circulating last spring that Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet Inc. Source