(Screenshot courtesy Fox News)
Fox News Channelís Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron (above) has been immersed in the New Hampshire Primary for decades.
Before 1996, when he joined Fox, he worked at WMUR, the ABC affiliate in Manchester. (And his family has had a home in Carroll County, NH for almost 90 years.)
So, as the Primary enters its final hours, I caught up with Cameron on the trail - he had to run straight from our conversation to an on-air update - to ask which candidates have real energy on the ground, how he sees the race going as we move south, and what he eats on the road (we went into a lot more detail on that question than I expected).
What candidates are pulling in the biggest crowds in NH? Where are crowds the thinnest?
In general, the crowds and energy in NH are substantially less than in cycles past - because Mitt Romney has been the prohibitive front runner for so long. Lots of candidates this time around - especially those less known and less well-funded - chose not to do intensive, on-the-ground work and instead did debates and cable TV interviews. Santorum did the retail stuff in Iowa, and it paid off.
But didnít Newt Gingrich rise because of media attention, not because of on-the-ground organization?
True, but Rick Santorumís example in Iowa will come through. I think Jon Huntsman will validate that example. Huntsmanís support in New Hampshire is largely from Independents and Democrats. The latest UNH poll shows that. Also, at some point, the Republican Party will have to decide whether itís positive or negative to have debates so often, which overshadows campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire. These first-in-the-nation voters are bummed out about it. Theyíre very earnest and interested in the campaign.
You were once the political director at WMUR in New Hampshire. How have you seen the mediaís presence in the New Hampshire primary change?
The number of media has exploded. Exponential. Now, in addition to all the cameras, there are people working off iPhones and blogging. Thereís very little time for anything that isnít on the record. In 1995, Lamar Alexander walked across New Hampshire by himself in a red, flannel shirt. He sat in peopleís living rooms. And almost no one noticed. Of course, he didnít win.
How big is your entourage in New Hampshire?
My intrepid and fantastic producer, Sarah Courtney. And camera and audio people who have worked with me since 1996. Theyíre great. Theyíre not my entourage. Weíre a team.
What do you find yourself eating in New Hampshire? Lots of diner food, as you follow campaigns to greasy spoons?
My briefcase is filled with PowerBars. My preference is Harvest, particularly oatmeal raisin. I also carry power drinks - caffeinated and non-caffeinated - as well as Mucinex, my laptop, chargers for seven to fifteen devices, and make-up (because Iím on TV).
OK, back to politics. What do you see looking ahead to South Carolina on January 21st?
If Romney wins in New Hampshire, thereís a chance that this whole process could be over. But conventional wisdom has been turned on its head from the outset.
Thereís the possibility that this will be a reflection of 2000. John McCain upset the frontrunner - George W. Bush - in New Hampshire.
Mitt Romney is going to win New Hampshire this time, but he may get beaten up in South Carolina, whether he loses or wins there. And we may find out who the conservative alternative will be. Florida could be Romney versus the conservative. Florida has a nice cross-section of the country and is a nice battlefield.
Using history as a guide, no Republican has ever won the presidency without winning South Carolina [whose primary began in 1980]. And no one has won South Carolina without winning either New Hampshire or Iowa. When Mitt Romney wins New Hampshire, heíll block the others out - at least historically. But itís also dangerous to use history as a guide.
What will Fox News be doing to distinguish its coverage?
I went to Dixville Notch Tuesday night. Itís fun for me because I have the home-field advantage. South Carolinaís fantastic too. Itís clear that everything thatís done here is aimed at South Carolina voters.
[On Fox tonight, Cameron will be live from a campaign, reporting on the New Hampshire results as they come in.]
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