Eagle-eyed Post book reviewer, Carlos Lozada, spotted that particularly interesting tidbit in former White House chief of staff (and Republican governor of New Hampshire) John H. Sununu's new book:
In the book, Sununu describes his efforts to boost support for Bush in the 1988 GOP primary against his main rival, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, in part by deploying an unexpected weapon in the arsenal of New Hampshire influence-peddling:
One of the interesting discoveries I made when I became governor was how strongly coveted low-digit automobile license plates were. For some reason, everyone with a car in New Hampshire wanted to have just two or three or even four numerals under the “Live Free or Die” state motto on their license plate. It was a brag of sorts. By tradition, when a low-digit registrant moved out of state or died, the governor, via the director of Motor Vehicles, got to choose who received the number when it was reissued. When I became governor, I wasn’t sure on what basis I could or would decide how to reissue those numbers, so I temporarily ordered that none of them be reissued until I resolved the process in my own mind. During my first four years in office, a few hundred of these plate numbers piled up. Most were four-digit plates that were quite coveted, but also in the mix were a few three-digit ones and, most prized of all, a handful of two-digit numbers. They turned out to be a gold mine.Once we got the Bush campaign rolling, I quickly decided how I wanted to put those license plates to use. As we rode around the state encouraging the more influential political figures to join us on the Bush team, we quickly discovered that whenever one of the more desirable opinion leaders was having trouble deciding whether to support Bush or Dole, the promise of a low-digit license plate was a very effective tie-breaker. In 1987 and 1988, we built the deepest, broadest, and most effective political campaign machine ever assembled in the state. I attributed much of that success to making good use of that hoard of license plate numbers tucked away in the bowels of the DMV.
Low-digit plates produced high-digit votes. After a disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Bush prevailed in the February 1988 New Hampshire primary, winning 38 percent of the vote over Dole’s 29 percent. “From there,” Sununu writes, “it proved to be a relatively downhill glide to locking up the nomination.”
So there you go. According to John Sununu, the Bush dynasty -- which could soon produce a third U.S. president-- was launched with a big assist from license plates.