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Bush Finds It Easy to Slip on an Icy Campaign Trail

CAMPAIGN 2000

Politics: He's homesick and tired and prone to misspeak as he struggles from behind in New Hampshire.

January 28, 2000|MARIA L. La GANGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Indeed, McCain has campaigned in New Hampshire for more than a year, visiting more than 30 times and holding more than 100 town hall meetings. And this week, with the exception of one bad snow day, he has been drawing big audiences.

If anything, McCain crowds swelled Thursday as he held five town hall meetings along New Hampshire's coast. At Nashua High School, the day's final appearance, a crowd of about 600 packed the cafeteria. Many had stood patiently waiting as McCain ran 30 minutes late.

Bush, on the other hand, drew his first big post-Iowa crowd at Souhegan High School in Amherst Thursday night, an enthusiastic audience that made up for some of the polite but unpersuaded groups he'd faced earlier in the week here.

Previously, his biggest audience came at Fairgrounds School as he chatted about perseverance (yes, he finally got it right). But the 500 or so children won't be going to the polls any time soon.

They did, however, make a lovely television backdrop, a guarantee that Bush's verbal misstep--an echo of his father's famously fractured syntax--would travel far beyond school walls.

Bush traditionally stumbles most when he's most tired, like the time he spoke of enemies and the Cold War late one evening at a junior college in Sioux City, Iowa. "When I was coming up," he said, "it was a dangerous world, but we knew exactly who the they were. It was us versus them and it was clear who them was. Today, we're not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there."

But as he told the children, there's only one thing a presidential candidate can do, or maybe two: Preserve his lead in other states. And persevere here in New Hampshire.

*

Times staff writer T. Christian Miller with the McCain campaign contributed to this story.

Times photos and updates from New Hampshire are available online: http://www.latimes.com/elect2000

* COURSE CORRECTIONS

In New Hampshire, Forbes' message shifts while Bradley's tone toughens. A24

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