Sometimes it's easy to forget that John McCain is running for the White House as a Republican.

At a town hall meeting in Exeter, N.H., the GOP senator from Arizona heaped praise on no fewer than three Democratic presidents: John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Only in the waning minutes of the forum did McCain--while again citing JFK and FDR--get around to mentioning Ronald Reagan and his "personal hero," Theodore Roosevelt.

McCain praised Truman both for his crack about needing a "one-armed economist" (so there would be no on-the-other-hand argument) and for intervening against North Korea without taking a poll.

But he was most effusive about Kennedy, telling the crowd that he had been impressed while watching some of the late president's speeches during a visit to the Kennedy Library last spring and that, like Kennedy, he wants to "inspire Americans to commit themselves to a cause greater than their self-interest."

Turns out there is a personal dimension to McCain's admiration for the Kennedy clan. At the library event, he was much taken with the down-to-earth charm of John F. Kennedy Jr. (and says he is convinced that, had he lived, Kennedy eventually would have been a senator and presidential candidate). And he's still grateful to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for arranging cakes and boat rides for McCain's son, who was celebrating his 11th birthday.

New Hampshire? America Yawns

Just how interested are Americans in New Hampshire's presidential primary? Not that interested, though news coverage has remained heavy.

That is the conclusion of a survey by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

The poll showed that 20 percent of those questioned claimed to be paying close attention to the campaign in early November. During the past two weeks, less than 15 percent said they were paying "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of attention to it. Those saying they paid no attention grew from 31 percent to more than 40 percent.

The poll marks the second round of a series of weekly surveys designed to gauge voter apathy. The Vanishing Voter Project at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy plans to interview at least 1,000 Americans weekly through the November election, more than 50,000 voters in total.

Early results show that Americans find the 2000 campaign not so compelling. Sixty percent of respondents queried in the most recent poll described the previous week's campaign as "boring." Sixty percent also said the campaign is simply "too long."

Asked why they were not following the campaign more closely, 54 percent of 1,013 potential voters interviewed Nov. 19-23 indicated that it's "too early in the campaign." Twenty-two percent said they were "too busy," while 12 percent said they were "just not very interested in presidential politics."

The weekly poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, comes at a time when presidential voter turnout is dwindling. Turnout in 1996 dropped below the 50 percent level, the lowest since the 1920s.

The Voter Involvement Index is based on four measures, including whether people say they are paying close attention to the campaign and whether they are talking about it.

In the first week of the poll, Nov. 10-14, 28 percent of people said they had thought about the campaign. One week later, it dropped to 21 percent.


The announcement had been expected since last month and Hillary Rodham Clinton made it official on Friday: She named veteran New York political operative Bill de Blasio as campaign manager for her New York Senate race. De Blasio, most recently regional director of the New York-New Jersey office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, starts work Monday.