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Behind the Scenes: Remembering New Hampshire 2000
A Tribute to the Losers

By Kirsten Andersen Heffron

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It is a sad commentary on either the lack of interesting presidential candidates on the Democrat side or how little I enjoyed my time spent on the campaign trail in 2000 that all I feel when I watch the coverage of the New Hampshire primaries this year is sweet relief. I'm so glad Iím not in New Hampshire. Iím so thankful itís the other sideís turn.


I have to admit, I feel bad for all those Democrat campaign staffers up there.  They may be doing the devilís work, but trust me: theyíre suffering mightily for it.  Four years ago, I was in the same place, standing around outside for six hours at a time when it was 3 degrees with a -40 wind chill factor.  I remember once, I bought a cup of coffee so hot it burned my lips, causing me to jerk and spill it.  The steaming hot liquid was frozen solid before it hit the ground.  Thatís how cold it was. 

We carried those warming pouches that you stick in your gloves and boots when you ski, but we couldnít actually use them to keep our extremities from freezing.  Instead, we had to wrap our ballpoint pens with them in a futile attempt to keep the ink from freezing.  Meanwhile, our toes and fingers went numb and our cheeks became blistered and angry purple.  It was hell on earth, frozen over.

Of course, it was also exhilarating in that way that only politics can be.  We were high on the chaos and excitement and the lack of sleep, and made the best of the crappy weather and our rapidly plummeting poll numbers.  But by the time we arrived in New Hampshire in 2000, I think everyone on our campaign knew it was over, whether they admitted it or not.  


Bush had the money and the partyís most powerful strategists, McCain had the media hype.  Our man had the money to stay in, but it was only a matter of time.  (He dropped out eight days after the primary.)  Consequently, I feel nothing but empathy when I see Liebermanís or Kuicinichís or even Sharptonís staff clustered in the background during photo ops, freezing their pants off and lacking the genuine optimism that buoys the spirits of their more formidable opponents.  They know itís over.  I know they know.  For some of them, it was over before it began.  Yet they stick it out as a matter of principle.  At some basic, idealistic level, they believe in their candidate (no matter how misguided that belief), and they refuse to say die until he does. 

So tonight, as you watch the returns and victory/concession speeches from New Hampshire, look beyond the losers to the young men and women bundled up behind them.  Even though theyíre Democrats, give them a bit of credit Ė because it takes a certain something to ďstand by your manĒ as he makes the final, heartbreaking transition from long shot to loser . . . especially when that transition is being made in subzero temperatures under ten inches of snow. 

Tonight, the winners will have the spotlight, the money, and the good champagne . . . but Iíll be toasting the losers.

Kirsten Andersen Heffron worked on Steve Forbesí 2000 Presidential Campaign.  She is thankful to have fully regained sensation in her frozen fingers and toes shortly after Mr. Forbes exited the race.  And yes, she STILL thinks Steve Forbes would have made a better President than George W. Bush.





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