Early Presidential Politics Hits the Granite State

Even natives of this first-in-the-nation primary state say they have never seen so much political activity so early.

"It seems to me it wouldn't start until late summer," said Elaine, who has been the third shift waitress at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, N.H., for the last 20 years. "I was going to say June, July, but here it is January. I thought it was my imagination."

She is not imagining things. This weekend Rudy Giuliani visits New Hampshire. So does long-shot Republican candidate Tom Tancredo, a representative from Colorado. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is scheduled to stump here next week and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will be here next weekend, a year before anyone, anywhere, casts a vote.

"I've never seen it this early and certainly not this intense," said Matthew, a Manchester native. "I mean, it feels like it's the week before the primary and it's a year before the primary."

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, is the keynote speaker at Saturday's Republican state committee annual meeting. Before the speech, he'll appear Friday night at a sold-out chamber of commerce dinner in Littleton.

The inundation of presidential politics comes with more than visits. Hopefuls from both parties have already hired staff in this state. Giuliani's roster includes many former employees of New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg. His regional field director is the son of the outgoing state party chairman.

In the Red Arrow Diner, a common campaign stop for presidential candidates, whose pictures line the wall, Roger chomped on a bison burger and sweet potato fries and wondered whether it is too soon for so much politicking.

"I don't think the people have grasped it all yet. Every week there's somebody new jumping in the race, but I think it's way too early to really get excited about it."

At least four states are considering moving up their primaries to perhaps diminish the influence of New Hampshire's primary. People here take seriously their traditional role in the nominating process and the secretary of state has vowed to schedule New Hampshire's primary as early as needed to make sure it's first.

At that rate, Roger said, "we'll be singing Christmas carols and voting."