Thursday, November 01, 2007

N.H., Iowa Keep the Candidates' Attention

Wallets Open Wide Despite Changes in Primary Calendar

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post
31 October 2007

PLYMOUTH, N.H. -- Just down the block from Anderson's Bakery and across from the local movie house with a flickering neon sign, a group of young men with laptops moved into a tan Cape Cod and announced their presence with a billboard out front: "Hillary."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's storefront office in this New England hamlet (population 5,892) is one of 16 the New York Democrat has set up with paid staff around the state that is expected to hold the nation's first presidential primary. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), perhaps her strongest challenger for the Democratic nomination, has plans to open his own office in Plymouth, which will give him a base of operations in 15 locations. Between them, the two campaigns have more than 140 paid field staffers across the state.

The extensive spending here, as described by local officials and laid out in campaign finance reports, provides a look at how money is changing the way presidential hopefuls are approaching the pivotal early contests.

The decision by most of the leading presidential candidates to opt out of the public financing system that would have restricted their primary spending in New Hampshire to less than $800,000 has resulted in armies of paid workers trying to squeeze votes out of every corner of the state.

"The amount of money being spent in the early states are of an order of magnitude that we've never seen before," said Alan Solomont, who oversees northeastern fundraising for the Obama campaign.

The huge spending here has helped debunk the notion that an increasingly front-loaded primary calendar would diminish the influence of New Hampshire and Iowa. Democratic candidates have spent $2.4 million in New Hampshire so far this year on rent and staff alone. That is more than double the $1.1 million they had spent in the state at this point in 2003. The numbers are even more pronounced in Iowa, where Democrats have spent $4.6 million so far this year -- almost four times the $1.2 million they expended four years ago. Republicans have spent more than $4 million on rent and staff in New Hampshire and Iowa so far this year.

The glut in spending has come before most of the candidates have started to invest substantial amounts in the most costly aspect of a campaign -- television advertising.


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