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New Hampshire Boom : One-on-One of 1st Primary May Be Lost

September 23, 1987|BOB DROGIN and FRANK CLIFFORD | Times Staff Writers

HOLLIS, N.H. — In a land of apple orchards and covered bridges, on a wooded bank of the Pennachuck Pond, high-tech impresario Ronald Moskowitz has built a strikingly modern house that invokes New Age California more than tradition-bound New England.

Moskowitz talks about rooms without walls and feeling outside when you are indoors. It is only when he speaks of his $35-million semiconductor company and his photovoltaic roof panels, which generate enough spare electrical power to sell to the local public utility, that Moskowitz sounds like the resourceful Yankee Republican that he professes to be.

"I'm part of the high-tech revolution up here," explains the 48-year-old transplanted New Yorker.

Moskowitz is part of the new New Hampshire, a state that is undergoing visible and dramatic change. A boom economy and a flood of newcomers--the population, now more than 1 million, has jumped 40% since 1970--has created new jobs and life styles, crowding streets and schools. And it is complicating the 1988 New Hampshire presidential primary in new ways as well.

With the state's first-in-the-nation primary five months away, campaign officials and political analysts say New Hampshire's unique style of one-on-one presidential campaigning--talking and listening to voters in living rooms and at backyard barbecues--may soon go the way of town criers.

The growth "has changed the way they campaign," says Richard Winters, professor of government at Dartmouth College in Hanover. "It heightens the radio media, the print and the TV. It makes it very difficult to do the retail politics that's associated with the New Hampshire primary. Very difficult."

"The face-to-face campaigning is going to become very largely a thing of the past," says William G. Mayer, one of the authors of a new book on the New Hampshire primary, "Media and Momentum."

Mayer argues that a record number of televised debates and the increasingly important Iowa precinct caucuses, just eight days before the Feb. 16 New Hampshire primary, will affect New Hampshire voters more than kaffeeklatsches with the candidates. Campaign officials acknowledge that Iowa has eclipsed New Hampshire to a greater degree than ever, and candidates are spending two to five days and dollars in Iowa for every one here.

'A Domino'

"How do you win New Hampshire? You win Iowa first. We're a domino," says Tom Rath, a former state attorney general now working for Republican candidate Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.

Moreover, the growth has changed the state's body politic. Most of the newcomers are sandwiched in the so-called Golden Triangle--between Portsmouth on the coast, Concord in the center, and most particularly, the Salem-Nashua area on the Massachusetts border.

It is there, less than an hour from Boston, where abandoned textile mills have been reborn as shopping malls and high-tech firms, where luxury condominiums have sprung up on farmers' fields and where "help wanted" signs now appear as common as the region's brilliant red maples.

More than 500 companies have moved to the state, lured by the picturesque scenery, low taxes and warm business climate. Unemployment rates are a national wonder, holding steady at less than 3%. Despite growing congestion, Money magazine last month declared Nashua the most livable city in the United States.

'Living High'

"It's boom time right here," said Hillsborough contractor Steve Bethel, 35, another transplanted New Yorker. "We're living high off the hog."

In some ways, the influx of outsiders probably makes New Hampshire, long derided as atypical of the nation's electorate and undeserving of the first primary, more like other states.

"The people living here come from all sorts of places in the country," says John Michaels, a lawyer in condominium-crammed Londonderry. "This could be a suburb of Raleigh (N.C.) or Chicago."

Or, more to the point, Boston. State officials estimate 40% of the new arrivals came from neighboring Massachusetts. They are a special factor this year.

"The problem is, a lot of them think they still live in Massachusetts," says former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul McEachern. "They work in Massachusetts. They read Boston papers. And they watch Boston TV."

Massachusetts governor and Democratic contender Michael S. Dukakis hopes that they also will give him strong support in a critical state. In the absence of hard data, however, his campaign plans to poll new residents to determine what they think, read and watch.

"I just don't have a sense yet as to who they are," explains Dukakis' state campaign director, Charlie Baker.

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