Presidential Hopefuls Head to N.H
By Lisa Singhania
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) February is the season for presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire even when the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary is still two years away.
Among the Republicans, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri and publisher Steve Forbes will all shake hands and kiss babies in appearances this week across the state.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle was here earlier this year and will return next month.
On the Democratic side, Vice President Al Gore, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska have also made appearances.
In a state where retail-politicking is king, it's never too early to start thinking about February 2000.
"They're courting," says University of New Hampshire professor Clark Hubbard. "They're trying to secure endorsements from local politicians, activists. They're not really pitching to citizens quite yet."
"There's been some attention from national media," says Jeff Woodburn, director of the state Democratic Party. "The whole process seems to have been escalated. One candidate will come and others feel if they're not here they need to be."
Political action committees associated with Forbes and Alexander, both unsuccessful 1996 candidates, have set up offices here. Both have aired radio ads on education funding reform, the hottest political issue in the state.
In his ad, Forbes asks voters to support a constitutional amendment designed to bypass a court ruling that threw out the state's education funding system. He asks listeners to call a toll-free number to express their support. Mailings on the subject also have gone out.
Forbes will use his New Hampshire visit to kick off a 14-state tour to lobby for legislation to overhaul the Internal Revenue Service and rewrite the federal tax code.
Alexander's ad says, "New Hampshire's education advantage is worth fighting for even it takes a constitutional amendment."
Republican Chairman Steve Duprey says the ads will increase name recognition among the party activists.
"Candidates will be getting on the air earlier, especially when they can work on coalition-building," he says. "These ads are not for Democrats. ... What they're appealing to is people who might become part of their base constituency."
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