Primary Day wraps up at the Manchester Radisson (after a long Primary Eve at J.D.'s Tavern and a place called 'Drynk')
MANCHESTER, N.H.—The Radisson hotel, which at some point during the past few election cycles displaced the Wayfarer Inn of Bedford as the media nerve center of the first-in-the-nation primary, was busy Tuesday afternoon.
"Any predictions for tonight?" an NBC News correspondent asked New Hampshire governor John Lynch during an impromptu interview in front of the hotel's Center Ballroom around 1:30 p.m.
"Nope. I'm gonna be watching like anybody else," the governor replied.
A few minutes later, MSNBC host Chris Matthews stopped nearby to pose for a picture on his way into the NBC studio down the hall. (NBC, along with other news organizations, has space in the Radisson.)
I asked him what he thought of the media coverage of this Romney-dominated primary over the past week.
"I haven't seen it having much influence," Matthews said. "I mean, it might have an influence in terms of the two debates. I think especially the Sunday debate might have an influence, because I think the candidates said things they didn't say before."
Around the corner from where NBC had set up shop was a shanty town of makeshift press headquarters. Staff shuffled in and out of CBS News' convention center-like space. Two dozen Associated Press employees could be seen typing away on their laptops through their glass-encased office next door.
C-SPAN was set up across the way, and even Dan Rather had found a home. His HD-Net show, "Dan Rather Reports," was camping out not that far from the front desk. A chandelier dangled above cherry hardwood floors in the small foyer bearing his broadcast's signage.
One floor up, on "radio row," people spoke into microphones labeled WBZ News Radio 1030, 107.7 WTPL "The Pulse," Talk Radio 1190 AM, and AM 1510 "Revolution Radio."
Outside, in front of the entrance to the lobby, the Associated Press had pitched a palatial tent. Two ABC News vans were parked nearby, and in front of the mobile CBS News studio, seven protesters who had wandered over from an Occupy New Hampshire Primary encampment across the street held their placards high in an attempt to sneak their slogans into the shot.
"Corporate money out of politics," one of them read; "Take back our government," read another.
The streets outside the Radisson had turned into a neat backdrop for external shots, bristling with obvious campaign-like activity.
Just up the road, Mitt Romney supporters were shuffling in and out of the former Massachusetts governor's campaign headquarters.
John Heimburger, 70, who'd flown into town from Houston on Saturday, was standing in front of his car parked out front with a "Vets for Romney" sign. He'd made a patriotic playlist for the occasion and was broadcasting it from his car speakers.
"The music is what's getting people's attention," he said, having gotten my attention, as "The Stars & Stripes Forever" blared from the stereo.
"I think he's the best-qualified overall," Heimburger said. "I like some things from everybody, but when you put all the categories down, Mitt runs away with it. He's a fine person, he's healthy, he's got a wonderful family, and that's the basis of our economy."
Further down Elm Street, the Ron Paul campaign had dispatched three guys from Maine to a busy intersection to wave signs around for a few hours.
"Since we're not the first state in the nation we decided to come to New Hampshire," said Doug Brown, 49, a self-described "PhD quant."
Some drivers honked their car horns as they passed by.
"The important issues are his views on monetary policy," he said. "None of the other candidates have ever even spoken about whether printing money without commodity backing is a worthy practice. And Ron Paul has written books on that subject, and that's just being ignored."
Brown and his crew had been joined by Andrew Cabot, 56, from upstate New York, near Ithaca. He had a question for us.
"What'd they do to Ron Paul yesterday?" he said, referring in a slightly accusatory tone to a Monday campaign event where more than 100 reporters mobbed a restaurant, prompting Paul to cut his visit there short.
"Some people think it was maybe a little bit of a ploy to stop him from talking to people, connecting with people. To kind of intimidate him a little bit ... I don't trust the media," he continued. "I'm sorry."
THE FUNNY THING ABOUT THE ACTUAL PRIMARY Day here is that there's not much for boots-on-the-ground reporters to do.
As the day progresses, wondering about what the voters are doing or have already done starts to seem a little pointless, since an increasing percentage of them have actually already done it; and yet the results aren't in yet. It's both too late and too early to cover the New Hampshire primary, pretty much from the moment the cable networks start going live again at midnight to cover the results from the tiny village of Dixville Notch (where in a Punxsatawney Phil-type way, the votes of the less-than-a-dozen registered voters there are used to fake-predict the result of the overall voting), to the final result. What's left is number-crunching, anchor-desk prognostication and analysis, for which actually being in Manchester provides surrounding color and not much else.