Candidates Return to NH with One Week to Go

By Jerry Miller | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Londonderry, NH ( - Despite freezing temperatures and a snow storm that made getting from place to place extremely difficult - if not downright hazardous - presidential hopefuls managed to make their way safely across New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday hoping to sway voters before next week's primary.

In Henniker, Arizona Sen. John McCain told students at New England College that he was running for the presidency in order to "restore respect and honor to the office."

Referring to the growing reluctance of many young people to participate in the political process, McCain said, "That shames me because I believe public service is the most honorable of professions."

Preoccupied by taxes in recent weeks, McCain managed to return to campaign finance reform, the issue that once dominated his message. "I want to reform government and the only way you can do that is to get rid of the corruption of this political campaign system."

McCain also took heart from a six-to-three US Supreme Court ruling, handed down on Monday, which reaffirmed the rights of states to place limits on contributions to political campaigns. McCain characterized the decision as "vindication" for his position on the issue.

During appearances here and in Sunapee, McCain again insisted that he is the most qualified of all the candidates to be president.

Meanwhile, facing the prospect of losing to McCain next Tuesday, Texas Governor George W Bush told a rally in Bedford, NH, "I'm comfortable with whatever the outcome will be. All I can do is give it my best shot."

Then, referring to his father, who lost in 1992, the younger Bush said, "I saw a good man loose and life goes on."

Bush and publisher Steve Forbes also disagreed over rising oil prices in New Hampshire. Those prices have nearly doubled in the last month.

Forbes insisted the increase was because of "price manipulation," and he suggested using the nation's oil reserve to counter increases by OPEC countries. "It would have made it clear to the manipulators that their days are done."

But, Bush characterized that as "a bad idea," and added, "That's for a national emergency. It doesn't last for many days, and when it's gone, it's gone."

On the Democratic side, former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley had a light schedule on Tuesday while Al Gore went from one stop to another asking people for their votes.

During a stop at a high school, in what was billed as a major address, Bradley told the largely all teenage audience - few of whom were old enough to vote - "if you are tired of what you've seen in the last decade in this country, If you are tired of politics as usual, you can send a message in this campaign by supporting my candidacy."

Bradley failed to hold the teen's attention as many talked with their friends and generally failed to pay attention during his often-rambling 45-minute talk. Said one adult, "This was the wrong audience to do this." Several of the teens characterized Bradley as "dull."

Several Granite State Democrats, including some Bradley supporters, expressed dismay at their man's failure to go after Gore and at Tuesday's light schedule. "He has no time to lose. He's falling further and further behind. Now is not the time to relax," said one supporter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Key Bradley staffers also insisted Tuesday's primary was the vice president's to lose. "We don't have to win it," said Press Secretary Eric Hauser.

As for Gore, his was a high energy re-entry into the state. He appeared with New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen. In stop after stop, Gore attacked Bradley on a host of issues, including health insurance, Medicaid and education.

Still, Gore cautioned his supporters against becoming over-confident. "This is a tough fight and we will not take anything for granted."

Meanwhile, the latest WMUR-TV Tracking Poll has McCain leading Bush 40 to 35 percent. With a five-point margin of error, the GOP race remains a statistical dead heat. The survey showed Steve Forbes in third place, with 12 percent; Alan Keyes at eight percent and Gary Bauer at one percent.

In the Democratic contest, Gore leads Bradley 52 to 42 percent, according to the tracking poll.