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MA Dems Hit NH Trail

The Democratic Primary in New Hampshire is going down to the wire. Polls show Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a statistical tie.

So Massachusetts Democrats have been crossing the border to swing the race. But they're split. Most Statehouse leaders back Hillary Clinton. Governor Deval Patrick supports Barack Obama.

WBUR's Curt Nickisch reports on the Bay State Democrats' divided loyalties.

TEXT OF STORY

CURT NICKISCH: For a state with an independent streak, it's odd maybe that New Hampshire's welcoming swarms of out-of-staters for election advice.

SOUND OF CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS

CAMPAGN WORKER: Awesome, come on in, have you signed in?

CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: Yes.

CAMPAIGN WORKER: Okay, awesome. Water, coffee, snacks, the bathroom's up to the right.

NICKISCH: Here at Hilary Clinton's campaign office in Salem, a bus of Massachusetts state lawmakers and volunteers they brought with has just emptied. Some are quickly handed signs to wave at busy intersections. Others dial through voter registration lists.

MARIT YOUNG: Okay, I'm just calling from the Hillary Clinton campaign.

NICKISCH: That's Marit Young from Swampscott.

YOUNG: I think everyone's having their kids answer the phone today. Yesterday they were out canvassing and we got a lot of kids coming to the door: my parents are busy! You know everyone's getting tired now, it's been a long time campaigning.

NICKISCH: Young says it is tedious to find one undecided voter with time to listen, but that's what this elaborate effort is designed to do efficiently. House Speaker Sal DiMasi is here boosting Clinton, too, and he says Bay Staters are particularly good at such operations.

SAL DIMASI: Massachusetts as you know, our politics is a full time contact sport. And we're very familiar with this organizing on a national level.

SOUND OF WALKING UP STEPS AND KNOCKING ON DOOR

ANICKISCH: rmed with a Google map with target houses circled, a Brookline pediatrician is canvassing a modest Salem neighborhood.

JENNY DOGGET: Hello.

HOMEOWNER: Hello.

DOGGET: My name's Jenny Doggett; I'm from the Hillary Clinton campaign, I'm a volunteer.

HOMEOWNER LAUGHS

NICKISCH: Doggett is originally from London, and she says there's no getting around her foreign accent and Massachusetts license plates. All she can do, she says, is tell New Hampshire voters her view - why she's backing Clinton over Barack Obama.

DOGGETT: I have used Deval Patrick as an example of someone I am very enthusiastic about, still am, but didn't hit the road running and has made mistakes in the first year. And personally I don't think we have time for the president to learn on the job. In eight years time, I may be out here for Obama. Just at this point in time I want someone with a little bit more heft and experience.

NICKISCH: However, Dogget's very example is campaigning for Obama now. And in contrast to the clamor in the Clinton campaign office, the Massachusetts governor took a quieter tack with New Hampshire voters this weekend. He went to house parties, talking to just a few dozen people for an hour or more. At this one in Peterborough, he told a story from church in Salem that very morning.

DEVAL PATRICK: We went downstairs after the service to the coffee and a gentleman came up to me, and I was just talking to people wearing my button, and he said: I thought you did so well in the debates last night!

CROWD LAUGHS

NICKISCH: Deval Patrick says he doesn't mind the comparison. He also likens his campaign for governor to Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton may have the machinery, Patrick says, but Obama has the movement.

PATRICK: It's very much about engaging people personally, and asking them then to pass that on to others. And that's how I think they built the organization in Iowa and it delivered in Iowa, and that's how I think it will happen in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

NICKISCH: That's too close to call with the primary election looming. Tomorrow is when New Hampshire voters decide what message they like best, and which Massachusetts politicians go home feeling like they made a difference.

For WBUR, I'm Curt Nickisch.

This program aired on January 7, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

Curt Nickisch Twitter Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.

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