"Where's the MULT?" shouts a large disheveled television technician, carrying a heavy camera that costs as much as a small New Hampshire house.
Right behind him, a reporter and a campaign staff worker yell in unison for directions to the nearest phone, then dash to beat several dozen others to it.
They are at the head of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's campaign pack of some 75 souls as it pounds into a senior citizens' center, where the presidential candidate will spend 10 and 15 minutes telling the elderly audience how he would lower their home heating bills. Some of the elderly gape in alarm at the intruders.
As the Massachusetts Democrat's entourage shoehorns through the living rooms, factories, school gyms, and Main Streets of this primary state, the candidate strolls in a small space cleared by Secret Service agents and aides.
But radiating out from him is a chaotic network of constantly adjusting needs and wants that dictate the movements of this road show, as they do those of the other candidates now crisscrossing New Hampshire.
Since Kennedy's poor showing in the Iowa caucuses, when he finally abandoned his costly charter jet "Air Malaise" and cut back his staff, his campaign has become an underequipped rolling adhocracy, and perpetually late.
It is an Olympic juggling act of television network feed points, Secret Service requirements, tons of baggage, motel space, phone lines, planes, buses, drivers, time (organized around network and newspaper deadlines and traveling distances and the limits of human endurance), money and a never-ending search for an open laundromat.
"It's a Rolling Stones tour -- but three times the size of the Stones and it changes constantly, with people attaching themselves or falling off," said John Gage, 37, Kennedy's unflappable tour director, who ought to know. He earned his stripes organizing rock shows for the Stones and other groups, as well as working for the presidential campaigns of Robert Kennedy and George McGovern.
The startled senior citizens at that center didn't even know they had a "mult" -- and until Gage arrived, they didn't. The mult is a shiny silver box with 20 to 40 different plugs -- "multi-plug box" -- into which television sound technicians and other reporters plug their equipment in order to get clean sound direct from the microphone at the candidate's mouth. Without the mult, and sufficient power and lights, the candidate wouldn't make the evening news.
The phone at this stop might be the first one many in the entourage -- 12 cars and limousines and a bus -- have seen in a full day of slogging through the snow, piling in and out of "events." At another time, or in another campaign, there might have been a fancy bank of specially installed phones on long work tables.
Gage, originally the campaign's "mult man" who took care of network needs, now shoulders logistics for the entire campaign troupe. Surrounded by flaring tempers and failed intentions, he maintains the polished wit and soothing calm one might expect of a Rolls-Royce salesman.
Among New Hampshire's other traveling candidates, Republican John Anderson, everybody's favortie white knight, has the opposite problem from Kennedy, according to New England coordinator Elizabeth Hager. Virtually nobody travels with him.
"We're like Doonesbury's cartoon," she said. "Our advance man is the one who gets out of the car first."
The Carter campaign currently is an entourage without a candidate and "it's sometimes rather confusing as to who's here and where they're going," said Ellis Woodward, Carter's New England press secretary.
Carter's prime surrogates, wife Rosalynn and Vice President Mondale, have each spent only one night in the state, despite their heavy schedules here, he said. "We send them across the border into Massachusetts."
The reason in this case is not the chronic shortage of motel beds in New Hampshire before a primary, but the state's "prohibitively low spending limits," Woodward said. Overnight outlays in Massachusetts don't count.
That is but one of the logistical distortions that can occur when politics enters the space-time continuum.
Late one recent night, while Kennedy and entourage dined wearily with supporters at the Cedars of Lebanon Restaurant in Manchester, an NBC producer managed to persuade Gage over a baked potato to give the TV crew the motel rooms closest to the candidate and send the Kennedy staff down the road to a less convenient motel.
Gage, juggling numbers of rooms and bodies on his yellow legal pad, thought he had it all figured out until he remembered, "We can't go there. That's a scab motel. Built by scabs." The staff went to a place much farther away.
Kennedy sometimes complicates matters by changing the schedule because he wants to shake hands a little longer or spend the night in a different place, setting the staff scrambling to make adjustments.
The senator has grumbled in an uncandidate-like manner about the size and shape of the razzmatazz considered so essential to a campaign -- the lights, the howling press pack.
Sitting on the front seat of the crowded press bus a couple of days ago, a flattened box lunch ripening nearby, he mused on the problem. "Obviously there are a combination of interests which have to be worked out. But in people's houses, I find myself talking to the cameras rather than to the people in the homes. It sort of interferes with what we're trying to achieve. . ."
George Bush's campaign caravan, by contrast, is "lean and mean" and on time, according to Bush campaign manager Hugh Gregg.
That is partly because Bush has so far declined Secret Service protection, thereby reducing restrictions on his movements.
It is also partly because Bush is a relatively docile campaigner, Gregg indicated. "We don't even consult him about where he's going. He never complains."