Quietly, Edwards Works New Hampshire

BEDFORD -- This is a quaint, upper-middle class suburb of New Hampshire, and because it lies catty-corner to vote rich Manchester, presidential candidates generally don’t campaign there too much. So it was a little impressive that Elizabeth Edwards was able to pack about 200 Bedfordians into a very small single-family home yesterday. (That's about 40 more than Rudy Giuliani attracted to his town hall meeting in Concord yesterday).

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John Edwards’s New Hampshire campaign manager, Beth Leonard, is adamant: for all the talk of Edwards putting all of his chips into winning Iowa, his campaign is investing heavily in New Hampshire, too. The campaign has ten field offices open now and Leonard oversees 40 full-time staffers. Those totals rival the Obama and Clinton campaign presences in state.

Leonard is a veteran of John Kerry’s Iowa state operation in 2004, and she is therefore very methodical. Edwards isn’t so much interested in endorsements, which is good because he’s getting very few, and he’s not interested in splashy day-long canvasses involving hundreds of volunteers. The campaign has identified hundreds of potential precinct campaigns and is targeting them. (One early source of recruits: the campaign of congressional insurgent Carol Shea Porter.)

If Edwards does well in Iowa, his New Hampshire operation needs to be strong in order to harness the momentum. Edwards couldn’t translate a strong, second place showing in Iowa to New Hampshire: the campaign had only seven paid organizers that year.

The Bedford house party was packed so tightly yesterday that Leonard and Edwards's staff couldn't get in. "To get a crowd this big especially after July 4th for a candidate's wife, that's pretty good," Leonard said. Leonard's challenge is to keep these folks engaged for another six months.

It's a a slog. Elizabeth Edwards attended two more house parties yesterday.

And next week, the campaign will host 14 across the state – none featuring the candidate or spouse.


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