While Alan Keyes tried to get to New Hampshire today to build on his stronger-than-expected showing in the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire was preparing its own message for Keyes: You're not in Iowa anymore.
"I'm surprised to see how well he did in Iowa," said Tim Paris, 31, a construction worker from Manchester, who was taking refuge from an all-day snowstorm that marooned Keyes in the Midwest and caused him to cancel his Tuesday schedule. "I'm very conservative, but I think most people in New Hampshire would consider his message extreme."
"Apples and oranges," said Rob Rabuck, former head of New Hampshire's Christian Coalition, comparing the New Hampshire primary with Iowa's caucus system. If Iowa's results made Keyes feel sky-high, Rabuck said, New Hampshire's could mean "he may be coming back down to Earth."
Rabuck's prediction for Keyes, who got 14 percent of the Iowa vote: "I'd be surprised if he got out of the single digits."
If so, the reasons have less to do with Keyes and his moralistic crusade than with New Hampshire, which has a fractured, independent-minded electorate. It ranges from the hard-core conservatives of the northern wilderness--the group that Rob Thompson, Keyes's state director, calls the "get us out of the United Nations and give me my gun" people--to the suburban masses in the south, whose interests tend to be more pragmatic than idealistic.
There are Christian conservatives in the state, but Rabuck says "they're all over the map this time," dividing their support between two other conservatives, Gary Bauer and Steve Forbes, and, as in Rabuck's case, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Steve Duprey, New Hampshire GOP chairman, says another challenge for Keyes will be what he sees as a more analytical approach by voters this year. Voters not only want to know if they agree with a candidate, he said, they also want to know if he can win. "People like him," said Duprey, "But they say, 'I'm not sure he's electable.' "
Jayne Marcucci, state GOP executive director, says the best way for Keyes to remedy this is to attend as many public events as possible. "One of his strongest assets is that when he meets people and is in front of them, he commands them. He wins them over," she said. "I don't think he needs to change his message, he need to get out there."
Hindering Keyes's ability to do that is an organization that, she says, "hasn't as done as well as the other campaigns." Duprey agrees, recalling invitations he sent to the Keyes campaign offering to host, at his expense, a get-together with 500 elected state committee members. "To expose Alan to the activists," he says. "We extended it four times to Alan in writing, and he never once availed himself of that."
Without such contacts or a grass-roots organization to assemble crowds on a moment's notice, he and Marcucci say, the best thing Keyes can do this week is to go to every county GOP "Lincoln Day" dinner, blanket churches this weekend with flyers and put himself before as many voters as possible.
Thompson, Keyes's state director, says that's much of what Keyes will be doing. He predicted that Wednesday's televised debate will give Keyes a noticeable boost and that, even if New Hampshire's electorate is fragmented, Keyes will remain as consistent as he was in Iowa, with similar results. "Same message," he says. "We're not going to tone it down or polish it up."
The voters Keyes will have to persuade include William Morrison, 56, president of the Cambridge Trust Co. in Concord, who plans to vote for McCain but says of Keyes, "He's very articulate, very conservative, and doesn't have a chance of winning the election. What he does have is a wider chance of expressing his views, which, as someone was saying yesterday, will help him on the lecture circuit."
And Douglas Osborne, 60, a real estate salesman and McCain supporter, who says, "Yes, morality and character are important, but more important at my age are health care benefits and paying off the national debt."
And David Caron, 35, who works at the Park Street barbershop in Concord and says, "He's not afraid to say what he feels. There's no doubt he could get it done. He impresses me the most."
Does that translate into a vote?
"Probably not," Caron said. "I really don't think he has a chance."