Every four years, when it’s time to elect a president, Americans are reminded that there still is a New Hampshire. The Granite State’s famed presidential primary, first in the nation since 1952, is a circus of retail politics and national media coverage that often produces surprising results. To find out how things are shaping up in New Hampshire, we called Joe McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader of Manchester. The conservative newspaper, the state’s major media power despite a daily circulation of only about 60,000, long has played an active reportorial and editorial role in the primaries. This election, says McQuaid, will be no different:
Q: Are you getting ready for the invasion or has it already started?
A: It’s already started. It really never stops anymore. I wasn’t sure that John McCain was running for president until I invited him up here for a speech at a school I’m involved with. This was I think three days after the 2004 general election? As he talked I realized, “My God, he’s running for president.” I think that’s probably the earliest it’s started, and now it’s just nonstop, and my editor is tearing his remaining hair out trying to figure out how and why we should cover all these people in addition to the regular news.
Q: Do New Hampshire residents dread this process and all the national media attention or do they embrace it?
A: Oh, they embrace it. People in New Hampshire are quite proud of the fact that politicians come up here to state their case, and New Hampshire people get to talk to them and ask questions of them. Actually, I think New Hampshire has a better voting record in presidential primaries than we do in our own state elections.
Q: Is there a downside to the primary?
A: No. There may be fatigue on the part of news media up here but there is no downside. For the state, it brings in revenue and you guys. And the politicians and the hangers-on come up here. I hope it elevates the level of discourse. They get asked better questions -- the politicians do -- by rank-and-file people in the state than they do by the news media.
Q: Is The Union Leader still the strong voice of conservatism in your state?
A: Yeah, it’s about the only one. It always has been.
Q: How would you describe your brand of conservatism? Can you further define it? Is it Reaganesque? Taftesque?
A: Taft? You mean Robert Taft? Or his old man?
Q: Either one.
A: How old are you?