BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Dayton Duncan, author of the book "Grass Roots: One Year in the Life of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary." Why should we care?
MR. DAYTON DUNCAN, AUTHOR, "GRASS ROOTS": Well, since the New Hampshire primary began in 1952, no one has been elected president of
the United States who didn't first win the New Hampshire primary.
It's the closest thing we've got to political amniocentesis. New
Hampshire votes in February. Nine months later, the nation elects a
president who New Hampshire picked nine months earlier.
LAMB: I'll get a real close shot of this picture right here on the
cover and ask you what's--what is it.
Mr. DUNCAN: It's a ballot box, actually, from my town of Roxbury, New Hampshire, population 200. That's how we--that's how we still
vote in New Hampshire in many pa--in many parts of the state with an
old wooden ballot box and you put it right in. And it's sitting there
in front of a sort of quintessential New Hampshire house and sort of
symbolically relates what the book is about, which is in a certain
sense old-time politics in a media age.
LAMB: How much impact does New Hampshire have on the presidential election?
Mr. DUNCAN: Oh, quite a bit. I mean, it's the first prime--the reason it's got the impact is because it's the first primary and
because it has this unblemished record sort of as a bellwether
primary. Because it's the first primary, it gets disproportionate
media attention. And, you know, if you win the New Hampshire primary,
you can get your cut--picture on the cover of Time magazine, and if
you're unknown the day before the--New Hampshire voted, you're not
going to be unknown the day after they--they vote for you.
LAMB: Someone shouted at me a couple days ago, and I haven't had time to check on this. I'm sure you've got the answer; that in '92, the
New Hampshire primary is the day after the Iowa caucuses. Is that right?
Mr. DUNCAN: No, it's--New Hampshire and Iowa sort of entered into a compact to protect one another from the constant--the quadrennial
exercise of doing away with both of them. So Iowa is eight days before the New Hampshire primary. That gives a little bit of time for the dust to settle from the Iowa caucuses and then time to concentrate on New Hampshire. It--but New Hampshire's law, they--we so jealously
guard that pole position in the presidential primary process that the law sets it in time but then also has a proviso that it shall be held one week before any other similar event. So if somebody else moves up, New Hampshire's moves up. Someone once said that if--if
necessary, New Hampshire would hold its primary at halftime of the Rose Bowl, if we needed to keep first that way.
LAMB: In the back of the book on page 424 under acknowledgements, you say, `In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I am
a registered Democrat. Always have been. And have been involved in a
variety of Democratic campaigns, both in New Hampshire and
Mr. DUNCAN: I was--I was a political journalist in New Hampshire
first. And then I joined the--the administration of Hugh Gallen, one
of three Democratic governors in the history of the state--in the last
century in New Hampshire. So I worked with him, and while I was
working with him, I s--worked on the Carter campaign in 1980 in New
Hampshire. 1984 I was Walter Mondale's national deputy press
secretary. Then I began work on this book, in which I followed
individuals, Republicans and Democrats, at the local grassroots level.
But when I was done with the research on that, and began the writing
of it, I got asked to become the national press secretary for Michael
Dukakis, which I did, and kept my record unblemished in terms of
supporting losing presidential candidates.
LAMB: There is a--a--a sign-off in here that has a date on it, I
believe it was like November of 1989.
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: As a matter of fact, Roxbury, New Hampshire, July 1989. Was
that when the last word was written for this book?
Mr. DUNCAN: Yep. Well, I mean, this--essentially,
that's--that's--that would be when it's done, and then it goes to
editing processes. So you got to tinker with it a little bit, but
essentially it was written there.
LAMB: Published by Viking. I guess a couple questions. Why would
you finish this on July '89 and why are we now just seeing it in 1991?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, it's--it's one year now till the next New
Hampshire primary. The process that I describe in "Grass Roots" is to
look at the presidential campaign from the bottom up, rather than from
the top down. Most campaign books sort of peer over the shoulder of
the candidate and the inner circle of advisers, and that was the mold
set by Teddy White in 1960 with his "Making of the President" series.
And I decided that there's an overlooked and I think important part of
politics, and that is the average citizen who wants to volunteer on a
campaign, and in New Hampshire, that politically active citizen is a
little different from all the other states in that that person gets to
know would-be presidents personally. So I followed them, starting a
year before the 1988 presidential primary and through their eyes and
their experiences, we find out what a New Hampshire primary cycle is
like. And so that cycle is just now about to start again. So that's
why the book came out now.
LAMB: Dedication is `to the memory of the late Hugh Gallen,' who you
just mentioned, `who taught me the joys and heartaches, but most of
all the higher purposes of politics.' What are the higher purposes of
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, the higher purposes of politics is, as I learned
them from Hugh Gallen, who was a remarkable politician, is that you
should never forget that politics is about people. It's not about
nine-second soundbites and it's not about 30-second attack commercials
or the latest poll results. It's about people. He, as governor,
stood up for the little man, the underdog, the person who doesn't have
a lobbyist, can't afford a lobbyist. And he was sort of a political
mentor to me. And my book, I think, tries to follow in that tradition
of trying as a reminder that there is a human dimension to politics
that we often forget; that is s--that people believe in a--in the
candidate, they believe in a cause, they believe in a campaign. And
they're willing to, you know, put the rest of their lives on hold for
a while to follow that. So you've got ups and downs, elations,
One of the women that I followed, a woman named Andy Johnson, began
the campaign a year before the primaries, a fervent Hart supporter.
Well, Donna Rice and the Monkey Business came along and--and that was
the end of the Hart campaign. But she was, by that time, so devoted
to politics, the practice of politics, that she decided to join
another campaign. Unfortunately, for her, it was Joe Biden's, and two
months later, that campaign went under. So she went through the whole
trauma, if you will, again. And finally decided she still wanted to
participate in the primary, and as we were driving to hear Joe Biden
say farewell to his New Hampshire campaign staff, she told me, `I
think I'm going to support Paul Simon now. He may be boring, but he's
safe, and I need somebody safe.' So for her, campaigning it d--the
activity was--was what really motivated her to get involved.
Another fellow was a fellow by the name of Doug Kidd. He was a
born-again Christian, a young fellow. Never voted in many
r--elections before that. But he got excited about the prospect of
Pat Robertson's campaign. So he got involved not only presidentially
for the first time, but politically for the first time, and we follow
him through the travails that--that--that he has of trying to organize
a political campaign around a religious base and struggling oftentimes
with his own soul, if you will, about whether Robertson was
downplaying his religious background too much. It was a very
interesting case, in that way. So he was devoted to a man. Al Rubega
is another main character in my book. He's a very fervent gun rights
activist in the state of New Hampshire. And he supported Jack Kemp
because Kemp, he thought, most consistently supported gun rights
issues. And clear up to the day of the primary itself was believing
that Kemp was about to take off and win the presidency.
So you have these people that come into the process for different
reasons, and obviously a number of them happen to meet a number of
frustrations. But we follow them and their experiences for that whole
LAMB: Where do you live?
Mr. DUNCAN: I now live in Kansas. I've--I've been in New Hampshire
for 20 years but I'm working on a book about the Western frontier and
it requires me to go to places like Montana, west Texas, Nevada, quite
often, and it's a long drive from New Hampshire to there. When I
finish that book, I hope to move back to New Hampshire.
LAMB: Where'd you grow up?
Mr. DUNCAN: I'm an Iowan by birth and raising so I've
got--I've--I've got touches--touch base to both the caucuses and the
New Hampshire primary. But after college, I moved to New Hampshire
and adopted it as my home state or it adopted me.
LAMB: Where'd you go to school?
Mr. DUNCAN: I went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia
majoring in German literature, preparing myself for who knows what.
LAMB: What'd you do after school?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, after school, I moved to New Hampshire. I worked
for two years in a hospital and then went to work on a--on a
newspaper, small newspaper in Keene, New Hampshire. Did everything
there from writing obituaries and headlines to covering City Hall,
school boards; then I started covering politics a little bit. And I
wrote editorials for a while. I wrote a smart aleck c--c--political
column for a while. So it was a good training to become a journalist.
LAMB: Why would you go from Iowa to the University of Pennsylvania,
study German literature...
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...to Keene, New Hampshire, to be a reporter? What was
the--you know, where did this all come from?
Mr. DUNCAN: Oh, just--there's--the--if I--if I look back on my life,
all the things that have been important have been by chance. And I
married a girl from--from New England so that's--that's what took me
up to--to New Hampshire. And I fell in love with the state at the
LAMB: What's Keene, New Hampshire, like?
Mr. DUNCAN: It's about 25,000 people. It's the setting for this
book, in Cheshire County. If you've seen the play "Our Town," it's
about a nearby town called Peterborough. It's a sort of a Currier &
Ives part of New Hampshire. It's not engulfed by the--by the growth
of Massachusetts yet, but it's also not clear up in the north country
where things haven't changed at all. It's sort of a mix of the old
and new New Hampshire. And by following everyone in just one county,
it also allowed me, besides being--going to all of the local
organizational meetings, going door to door with all of the
volunteers, going to the phone banks with them, I could follow every
candidate's visit into the--into the state. So you see Bruce Babbitt
sitting down for breakfast with eight people about a year before the
New Hampshire primary and see what that's like. And then you also see
a presidential--I mean, a vice presidential trip and see what that's
like from the point of view of the people who are organizing it. When
Vice President--then Vice President Bush came into Keene.
LAMB: How many people like you are in New Hampshire? In other words,
the outsiders moving in?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, New Hampshire is--over the last 20 years
it's--it's a very heavily composed--I think it's more--I think it's
more than half the people in New Hampshire now are not born in the
state. It's the second fastest-growing state east of the Mississippi
River, second only to Florida.
LAMB: Do the insiders treat the outsiders differently?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, there's an old saying in New Hampshire that if
you--if you move there and your children stay there and their children
stay there, those children will be considered natives so it's--but
it's a pretty nice state. They--they welcome you all right.
LAMB: `Live free or die.'
Mr. DUNCAN: That's the m--that's the slogan.
LAMB: On all the...
Mr. DUNCAN: All the license plates.
LAMB: ...license plates. What's it really mean?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, it--the--the real relation to it is it's the words
of General John Stark, a hero in the Revolutionary War, from New
Hampshire. But it takes on a--a bigger meaning than that. It's an
expression, I think, of the fierce independence that people in New
Hampshire feel. And we're a little different than a lot of other
states in that respect, at least in the--in the East. It's
both--people will sort of leave you--respect individualism and they
respect crankiness, too. It's a cranky state sometimes.
LAMB: Why New Hampshire and Vermont; side by side, one looks liberal
and Democratic, and one looks conservative and Republican.
Mr. DUNCAN: I've read a lot of things on that and--and I don't know
exactly why. The Manchester Union Leader, which is the biggest
newspaper in the state of New Hampshire, is a very arch conservative
paper. That certainly has had some influence in the politics of the
state. Oftentimes overrated. In the 1972 presidential primary, of
course, they attacked Senator Muskie's wife and he did the famous
thing of standing on a flatbed truck in front of the Manchester Union
Leader and denouncing William Loeb and as wet snow was falling--and to
this day there--you can get into a political debate over whether he
was crying as he spoke or whether the snow was melting on his cheeks,
but nonetheless, it was portrayed that he was crying in front of
William Loeb's newspaper, and that's often credited with making sure
that Senator Muskie never became President Muskie.
LAMB: Who's your favorite character in this book?
Mr. DUNCAN: I think my favorite character is Doug Kidd who had never
been involved in politics before and followed the--the Robertson
campaign. All the people that I followed, all these individuals, knew
that I was a Democrat and knew what my politics were, but they also
knew that what I was interested in was not an ideological story, but a
human story, the human drama of average people involving themselves in
politics. And his was very interesting because he was struggling all
the time, both in terms of trying to learn what politics is like, how
do you organize a county for a candidate. Well, when a candidate
would--was coming in, when Pat Robertson would come in, how do you put
together a campaign event? But at the same time, he was always
struggling with--if whether this was moving forward a greater cause
and so it was an interesting--he's an interesting character, I think,
and--and sort of a charming one, at that.
LAMB: Some statistics up front: 1,027,000 people in the state...
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...767,000 were 18 or older...
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and there--therefore eligible to vote. Of those, 586,492
were registered to vote. Of those, 214,000 were registered
Republicans, 174,000 registered Democrats and 197,000 Independents.
Mr. DUNCAN: And the--the tantalizing thing for somebody who gets up
in the morning, looks in the bathroom mirror and thinks he sees a
president staring back at him is that in New Hampshire, if you can get
about 55,000 votes in yo--your primary, Republican or Democrat, you're
probably going to win. Now 55,000 votes is about the size of a vote
in a medium-size city in the rest of the United States or a county in
most other--most other states. So it seems like it would be so simple
to get 55,000 votes. You get eight people or five people to sit in a
room together, and if each of those five people commit themselves to
you and they go out and get five more people and those people get five
more, it's sort of like a modest chain letter with the grand prize of
being leader of the Free World if you can just count to 55,000. And
it seems so tantalizingly simple at the outset and that's how I start
the book of--with this--those kind of numbers. And then as the
campaign progresses, you see it's not quite as simple as you thought
it might be.
LAMB: You stayed in Cheshire County.
Mr. DUNCAN: Right.
LAMB: How many of the--break it all down for Cheshire County. How
many of the 55,000 votes did someone have to get out of Cheshire
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, 17,000 people voted in Cheshire County, and it was
about split, about eight thous--a little over 8,000 apiece in Cheshire
County, Republican and Democrat. So in a crowded field, you don't
have to get 4,000. You'd only have to get about 3,000 to--to win.
The other thing I did when I did this book is just sort of sidelight
to following these human stories of the volunteers is I think for
about the first time, I counted the number of people who actually met
a candidate. You know, there's this joke about the New Hampshire
primary where a reporter's following a candidate and the candidate
meets somebody on a street corner. And they talk for a while, and the
candidate walks on. The reporter goes up to the New Hampshire citizen
and says, `Well, have you decided if you're going to vote for that
candidate or not?' And the New Hampshire citizen says, `I don't know
yet. It's only the third time I've met him.'
So there was this myth that in New Hampshire, everybody meets the
candidates two or three times. Well, I wanted to check that and what
I found by counting in Cheshire County at least is that it's about 22
percent of the people who voted actually saw a candidate in person,
either shook his hand on a street corner or in a small living room
at--at a reception or even in an auditorium at a--at a speech. But 22
percent is much higher than any other state does in a presidential
campaign. I've, you know, been through a couple myself and it's
mostly, you know, campaign from TV studio to TV studio essentially.
So it's very high, but it also means that, you know, three out of four
people vote in the New Hampshire primary the way they do
ev--everywhere else which is based on what they see on television or
read in the paper or hear on the radio.
LAMB: Right now, do you have any knowledge of what's going on in New
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, I was just up in New Hampshire last week for a
week traveling around talking about my book, sort of being a candidate
myself. I went to interviews, small homes, and if--if I had announced
for--for president, I'd be the front runner for the Democratic race
right now because there's nobody running. It's very different than it
was four years ago. The Gulf War sort of--a byproduct of the Gulf War
was a cease-fire of--of politics. And I think beneficially it means
that this campaign for '92 will start at a more reasonable time than
the '88 primary did. By this time four years ago, when I started
working on--on this book, candidates--there are, you know, five or six
candidates in each party coming into New Hampshire on a regular basis
meeting with people. Right now, nobody is doing that.
Mr. DUNCAN: Nobody.
LAMB: There's no grassroots organization at all?
Mr. DUNCAN: None whatsoever, but it'll start this summer I think at
the latest. And that's plenty of time. One of the things that you
learn of as you read through--through my book is the campaigns got
organizationally ready. Their grassroots organizations were ready by
about August or September of 1987. And what happens th--when--
you reach that point is you're going to reach out to the voters.
Well, the voters are very sensible people, and they aren't ready
to--to focus on the election till it's about time for them to vote in
February. So essentially you had about a four-and-a-half month gap
there where the campaigns were going furiously trying to talk to
voters who weren't paying any attention.
LAMB: Are there any organizations--remnants of organizations left
from the last campaign?
Mr. DUNCAN: Oh, sure. Yeah, I should--I should point that out.
Dick Gephardt, who finished second in the primary, still has a--you
know, a core of supporters left over from--from that campaign, as does
Al Gore who sent I think Christmas cards and things to the--the people
on his list from the--from the last campaign.
LAMB: Did Dick Gephardt do that?
Mr. DUNCAN: Yes, I think so. He's kept in--in--in contact with
them. Jay Rockefeller, who hasn't run for president, had also sent
Christmas cards to people on Democratic mailing lists. So I don't
think we have to worry about whether there'll be a campaign or not.
There will be. It'll just start later than--than before.
LAMB: Are you surprised about the Jay Rockefeller thing?
Mr. DUNCAN: No, I mean, it's a--it's sort of an
old--it's--it's--it's sort of an old tactic, you know, get--get a list
and send it to your close friends who live in New Hampshire. It's a
pretty good mailing address to--it's a pretty popular mailing address
every four years.
LAMB: But I...
Mr. DUNCAN: I also counted the--within the campaign itself during the campaign of--of '88, the Republican and Democratic campaign
headquarters sent out I think it was about three million pieces of
mail in--within New Hampshire itself. And, of course, there is only,
you know, about 300,000 people voting. So that's a--that's a lot of
mail moving--moving around the state. And that doesn't even
include--I mean, that would be--a mailing to, say, all Democrats or
all Republicans, but it also included handwritten notes from
volunteers to their neighbors saying, `You know, I'm supporting Bruce
Babbitt because he's strong on the environment. I hope that you'll
supp--support him,' or Jack Kemp sent a mailing to all people who
owned guns, who had dir--who had hunting license, rather, in New
Hampshire because Al Rubega was one of his principal supporters, was
very active in gun rights issues. And they sent a note to everyone
with hunting licenses talking about Jack Kemp and firearms issues.
Bob Dole sent a letter to everyone from the old Mountain Division of
his from World War II who lived in New Hampshire. Al Gore sent a
letter to everyone who owned a satellite dish in the state of New
Hampshire because he was involved in some legislation here in
Washington of interest to them.
So it's this incredibly intense organizational activity because you've
taken the--the grandest and biggest political event that America has
to offer, the selection of the next president of the United States,
and at the outset, you confine it into this s--small state
geographically and by population.
LAMB: Any Republicans d--did you find out if any Republicans had been
staying in touch?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, prior to the--prior to the outbreak of hostilities
in the Gulf, Pat Buchanan had come up to New Hampshire and given a
speech to some Republicans who didn't--he said that he's not running
for president of the United States, but any time somebody who's
mentioned in any context as a possible president crosses the state
line of New Hampshire, particularly if it's the year before the
primary, you know, alarm bells go off in news rooms around the country
and--and people start thinking maybe there's a presidential race in
the offing here. I don't think now b--I--I think because of the way
the war proceeded and--and was prosecuted so successfully, I--I don't
think Bush is going to have any real opposition at this time around.
LAMB: Go back to the '88 campaign, and I don't know why I pick this
number. Say five--give us five items if you can think of them that
George Bush did th--in your opinion from what you've seen got him
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, I'd say first he was Ronald Reagan's vice
president, and Ronald Reagan is loved still in New--in New Hampshire,
and that--that just started out by giving him a--a--a big advantage.
Number two, he early courted and got the support of then-Governor John
Sununu. Bob Dole got the support of Senator Warren Rudman. Both are
very popular Republican figures in the state, but a governor,
typically, has more of an organization --than a US senator
does, so in that bargain, regardless of how popular one might be over
the other, Bush got a better organization out of it. So that would be
Number three, he made some mistakes early on in his campaigning, so
this is not helping him, but I think it's important to point out. He
didn't do what most candidates normally do in New Hampshire, which is
go and meet people, shake their hands. He had this wall of flesh
around him of Secret Service agents, larger advance staff, more aides,
larger press corps, that always sort of separated him from the people.
And there's one interesting chapter about the local supporter I was
following, had this dream event, or dream day, that he had had for
Vice President Bush to campaign in Keene, New Hampshire, and one by
one, all the things that he wanted him to do--walk down Main Street,
go to a diner to meet the people there, go to a--you know, a
manufacturing plant and meet the workers--one by one, those things get
nixed by either the Secret Service or the vice president's staff, even
to the point of where this person was going to lead the vice president
around a reception room and keep getting on the wrong side of the
Secret Service, and sort of tries to get around to help introduce his
candidate to the local--to--to the local people.
So that was a--that's a third item that I think initially hurt him,
but then, after he lost, finished third in Iowa, they switched. He
was fighting for his political life, and suddenly George Bush, the
myst--you know, the presidential candidate was sort of `Joe Bob' Bush,
you know, driving a bulldozer, going out and meeting people
face-to-face, and it was a quick switch of image.
And the fifth is, despite the notion of New Hampshire as a place where
candidates always meet the people, and the people won't vote until
they've met the candidate, as I said, about 75 percent of the people
don't meet a candidate. And he went very negative in his advertising
against Bob Dole in the final days. Bob Dole did what the
can--Michael Dukakis, who I worked for in the general election, did
later, which is, he didn't respond soon enough, and before he knew it,
the primary was over and Bush was the winner.
LAMB: Did he write those personal notes to people in New Hampshire
like he does ...(unintelligible)?
Mr. DUNCAN: Oh, you bet, yeah. If he went into people's houses in
New Hampshire, prominent Republicans at least, you'll see an awful lot
of pictures of them and George Bush, either in New Hampshire or over
at his place in Kennebunkport, or a little framed note to them,
handwritten from him, about--about their time--we should never forget
that when he accepted the nomination of his party in--in New Orleans
in the summer of 1988, one of the first things he said was--as he'd
promised--was `Thank you, New Hampshire.' And the new chief of staff,
the chief of staff that he brought with him to Washington, is John
LAMB: And--and do you think there's a connection there?
Mr. DUNCAN: Oh, you bet. Yeah. I mean, the connection is this, is
that Sununu and the state of New Hampshire really saved George Bush's
political life. If Bob Dole had won New Hampshire after winning Iowa,
I think--I think Bush would have probably been politically dead.
So--so Sununu had a chit in that respect, but also, he had access
to--to the president. They got to know each other, and George Bush
saw in him the kind of person he wanted to be his chief of staff.
History was actually re--interestingly, was repeating itself. The
very first New Hampshire primary in 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower was
supported by then-Governor Sherman Adams of New Hampshire. Eisenhower
didn't come to the state, but Adams campaigned very vigorously for
him, and Eisenhower won. Sherman Adams became Dwight Eisenhower's
chief of staff in the White House, and in 1988, the same thing
happened with Bush and Sununu.
LAMB: By the way, who took that picture?
Mr. DUNCAN: The wife of one of the best authors in New Hampshire.
Midora Hebert is her name, and her husband's name is Ernest Hebert,
whose newest novel is entitled, "Live Free or Die."
LAMB: You wife is a journalist?
Mr. DUNCAN: She is. She's semi-retired now, raising two small
children, which is more than a full-time job in its own right.
LAMB: Where'd you meet her?
Mr. DUNCAN: I met her as--after I was leaving my job as chief of
staff for Governor Gallen, who--who lost when he ran for a third term,
and then died quite suddenly. She was just coming in as a political
reporter in--in Concord, New Hampshire. That's where we first met.
LAMB: What role did she have in this book?
Mr. DUNCAN: She had two big roles--three roles. First of all, she's
my first editor, first-line editor, and a very tough one, I might add.
Secondly, she just helps keep me going, and third, I--on--on the
primary day itself, since I was following, you know, eight or nine
people and all of the campaigns, I--I couldn't follow everybody on
that final day. It was--it would have been physically impossible, so
I had a great reporting crew, I think what--not only one of the
biggest in New Hampshire on that day, but the highest quality. My
wife, number one; Ken Burns, who was the documentary filmmaker for
"The Civil War," followed a person for me; Ernie Hebert, the author,
followed one; the managing editor of Yankee magazine, Kim Clark,
followed a person for me; a fellow who's the journalism professor and
political scientist from the University of Massachusetts followed
somebody for me; a couple other book authors followed people for me,
so I had a--I had a great crew. I think I--I would stack mine up
against the Washington Post's or anybody else's.
LAMB: How did you choose the people that you told us about earlier as
people to follow in Cheshire County?
Mr. DUNCAN: I started by contacting the campaigns, telling them what
I wanted to do and getting their permission to sit in on the local
organizational meetings, and I would go to those meetings and meet the
people. Sometimes it'd be three or four people, or--or--or sometimes
only a couple of people, and get to know them. And as the groups got
bigger and bigger, I got to know all of them. Or when a candidate
came into the county, I would follow the candidate around and meet the
people h--he was meeting.
And as time went on, I picked a person from each campaign, and when I
sat down to write the book, I decided to focus on six people who
represent a range of motivations of why they got involved, who
represent a range of previous experience in politics and whose
experiences themselves showed, you know, the different--different
things that can happen to--to an individual. So it was a combination
of luck and a combination of--of design of the people I finally
LAMB: Any candidate not cooperate?
Mr. DUNCAN: No. No, I was very--as I say, I--I'm a Democrat, and so
I anticipated that perhaps the Republicans might be reluctant, but
I--because I started so early--I actually started contacting campaigns
in December of '86--all of them were, you know--I t--I said, `Look,
I'm not interested in, you know, getting--scooping somebody on, you
know, who's going to put up what ad first or what your tactics are,
and I'm not going to tell one campaign what the other campaign is
doing, and I'm not going to be telling political reporters who I know
anything that you would consider sensitive, and the book won't come
out until three years after the event anyway.' So any--any things that
were tactical secrets won't be--you know, will be long past secrecy,
and they all gave me their permission, and--and also I think by the
time--because I started so early, by the time it got to the time where
people were kind of nervous about who was sitting in a room, they were
so used to seeing me around there, sitting with my notebook that
nobody paid any attention to it.
LAMB: Can you characterize anybody in this campaign, or any side or
any ideology differently than the others? In other words, if you--if
you were to say, `Oh, the conservatives always do this'...
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...or `The liberals always do that,' or `The conservatives are
nicer people than the liberals.'
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: I mean, is there any way you can ...(unintelligible)?
Mr. DUNCAN: No, and I--and I hope--I think that's one--I--I ho--I
hope that's one of the things that pali--particularly political
journalists or o--other people will learn from reading my book, which
is we tend to try to stereotype people by ideology and we also--one
side or the other tends to demonize the other side. You support--I
support Mike Dukakis and you support Jack Kemp; therefore, you're bad.
And I think what emerges from my book, by focusing on the--the very
human stories of these people, is that no ideology has a monopoly on
decency, or a monopoly on people of integrity and belief.
All the people that I followed are very different from one another in
many respects, a--in what they believe on s--individual issues, for
instance, or why they got involved. But the one thing that they all
had in common, the common thread for them, is that they believed in
the process itself. I call it `the democratic covenant' at the end of
the book, the only time I sort of--sort of enter in and give my own
views of things, and that covenant is a two-way bargain.
First is that the outcome is relevant to the citizen, that who gets
elected matters somehow. It might matter that you get a job as chief
of staff in the White House in a very self-interested way, or it might
matter that your issue gets a higher order in the pecking order of the
agenda of the president of the United States. Or it even might be a
vague thing that a good and decent man, that you think is a good and
decent man, becomes president of the United States. But it matters,
the outcome matters to you.
And the second part of the bargain is that you, the--the citizen, is
relevant to the outcome. If it's just your vote, that counts, and it
matters, but if you're a volunteer, that matters even more, because
maybe you're going to win two or three votes. And it needs--those two
interlocking provisions, you know, that it matters who wins, and I
matter to the process, that I--that I hope people would take fr--take
I--as I say, we can't let politics become simply some abstraction of
poll numbers and media images. If we do, we forget that at its basis,
what democracy is, it's about people, that they have--they're
individuals. They become statistics, perhaps, but at--you know, you
have to keep remembering that those lists that you start the campaign
with represent actual human beings.
LAMB: See yourself getting involved in a future campaign?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, you know, I'm oh-for-3, so I'm not sure that too
many people are going to call me. I don't know. I--I--politics and
journalism are my two professional passions. Usually, I keep them
very separate. I write about things not related to politics, and then
when I get in politics, I don't--don't write about it. You know, I
don't--I don't like `kiss-and-tell' stories from the inside. But in
this instance, I thought it--because it was a perspective on
presidential politics that no one's written about before, that I
would--I would join the two.
I'll stay somewhat politically active, but climbing into an airplane
for six months with 150 reporters and Secret Service and--and a
candidate, and going from one event to another without much sleep, is
something I think I'll leave to somebody else in '92.
LAMB: You mentioned Dick Gephardt staying in touch with Christmas
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and Al Gore and Jay Rockefeller.
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: Where's Joe Biden?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, I think there--the--he still has some supporters
in--in New Hampshire, and I--I don't know if he sent Christmas cards
LAMB: Michael Dukakis.
Mr. DUNCAN: I think Dukakis--he had a--he had an event for all of
his New Hampshire supporters, key supporters, shortly after the
election in 1988, but he's out in Australia now, I think, or something
like that, and I don't think he's thinking about running again.
LAMB: Paul Simon?
Mr. DUNCAN: I don't think he's going to run again.
LAMB: George McGovern?
Mr. DUNCAN: George McGovern's the only one that's said--actually
said, `Maybe I will run.' He came to New Hampshire about a month ago
and gave a speech at the university there; did go and meet, you know,
voters, like you--like you would do if you were really getting
started. But he did say, `If nobody else runs on the issues that I
think are important, then I will run,' and I know that he's just
recently been to Iowa, so I think he'll probably run.
LAMB: Bruce Babbitt.
Mr. DUNCAN: I don't think so. I--he's--he's involved in some
environmental issues now. And I don't think he's going to go for it.
He was an interesting case. One of the people I followed extensively
was a Babbitt supporter, and his was a very interesting case of media
image and personal image. People--he would sway people over, over
time, by meeting with them and talking to them, and they got to like
him and admire him greatly, but every time he was on TV, it sort of
set him back a--you know, a month or two organizationally. I think
that everybody--I think in his case, everyone who did vote for him in
the New Hampshire presidential primary had met him.
LAMB: One of the things that I read in the book, an--and as I read, I
said, `Oops,' was a reference to this network, and well--it wasn't
anything you did. It was something that...
Mr. DUNCAN: OK.
LAMB: ...it--it came back to us. At one point, you were talking
about people sitting around watching the Iowa caucuses...
Mr. DUNCAN: Oh, right. Yeah.
LAMB: And I think the winner--in the c--caucus we covered--I think
was Bruce Babbitt.
Mr. DUNCAN: That's right.
LAMB: And you say how that affected the--the way the people up there
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah. This--well, it--as it turned out, it was how they
thought but--but only briefly.
Mr. DUNCAN: But this--this fellow that I'd been following for a
year, who became very intensely devoted to Bruce Babbitt, at the same
time you thought--he'd go through sort of these wild swings of where
they thought Babbitt had no chance at all, or whether maybe he did
have a chance, and he--he decided that if Babbitt did well in Iowa,
perhaps he could do well in New Hampshire. And the C-SPAN coverage of
the one Iowa caucus...
Mr. DUNCAN: ...that they did live...
Mr. DUNCAN: ...but went on, Babbitt did emerge as the winner, and
this fellow lived out in the country and didn't have cable, and one of
the other Babbitt supporters got on the phone and said, `I think you'd
better get down here. I think it's happening, finally.' He's driving
furiously to get down to--to watch it, and his hopes are rekindled.
He thinks maybe it's going to pull it off after all, you know. How
wonderful. And he turned on his radio just as the results started to
come in, and Babbitt finished next to last in Iowa, and he went and
said hello to the people, turned around and drove home, and--and
believed, correctly, that it was already over for Bruce Babbitt.
LAMB: Yes. And the reason I said `Oops,' is that we--you know, when
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...which one we go into, you're always afraid that something
like this will happen, where it's not representative.
Mr. DUNCAN: Right.
LAMB: And I want to get--get to the media aspect of this. Does any
media in--any of the media in New Hampshire have an undue amount of
influence on who the people there cho--chose, say, in Cheshire County?
Mr. DUNCAN: They have some influence, the local media does. I--I
would say actually the national media has a greater impact on the
results in the New Hampshire primary than the local media does. The
best instance of that's the 1984 primary between Mondale and Hart and
a bunch of others. Hart got this momentum--even though he finished a
very distant second to Mondale in Iowa, he suddenly was portrayed as
the exciting alternative to Mondale, and Mondale had a certain vote
and his organization was very good, had identified it and got that
vote out. Hart had a very good organization, but they had--you know,
but they were not as--I--I don't think as well-developed as Mondale's.
But he got this big media roll. Every night on television, both
national media and I'd say Boston television, which is very
influential in New Hampshire, and--and that had big impact on it.
The Manchester Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper and a very
arch conservative paper, very political paper, has a very big
influence within Manchester itself. It supported Pete du Pont in
1988, and he didn't do--he finished, I think, fourth or fifth in--in
New Hampshire, but he finished much higher in--in Manchester, so it
has a big impact in Manchester, and when it goads a candidate it
doesn't like into making a mistake, of course it has a big impact as
LAMB: A lot of people in your book, and we haven't given that--I
mean, a lot of the questions I've had have been...
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: ...not people-oriented--Kendall Lane--you mentioned a couple
earlier--did any of these folks get nervous when you were hanging
Mr. DUNCAN: A little bit, but not too much, and I think for--I think
the main reason was--is because I started so early, you know. By the
time that they would be getting nervous about it, they were sort of
used to me sitting there in the organizational meeting with them.
There was no deception on anybody's part. I went to them at the
start, and I said, `Here's--here's what I'm doing. I want to write a
book from--you know, from an average person's perspective of what it's
like to participate in a New Hampshire primary, and I may want to
write about you. Can I talk to you?' And we'd do an interview or a
couple of interviews, and I'd go to some meetings with them, and then
I'd say, `Yeah, I really a--do want to keep following you. Is that
OK?' And so they--they knew what I was--what I was doing, but I was
sort of an old shoe by the time...
LAMB: How many did you pick?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, I picked about 10 people that I kept track of
pretty closely for 14 months, but when I started to write, I focused
on six primarily, because I th--I thought it'd be trouble--trouble for
a reader to keep track of more than six.
LAMB: Which candidate did you leave out?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, I didn't leave them out entirely, because you get
the whole--you get the whole view of what happened in the county, but
for instance, the Jackson campaign started much later than the others.
You get a view--you go to a couple Jackson meetings in my book and
talk to the coordinator, but it's not a major part. Dole--you meet
the--the--the Dole people later in book, partly, again, because they
didn't start as early as the others. Haig and du Pont, you go events
with them, but they never even got an organization going.
Then you have some people--Shelley Nelkens is a woman who is very
adamantly against nuclear power, so adamantly against it that she
would go to every candidate that she could come close to and try to
convince them that they should--you know, that should be their
position, too, and she was looking for a candidate who would fit her
cause, but because she was so fervent in her belief, she couldn't find
a candidate pure enough, and so she decided not to support anybody.
LAMB: What do candidates do--and I know you know what I'm going to--I
mean, I know you know what I'm talking about--what do they do when
they get somebody that they don't want around them? They say, `Get
that nut case out of here.' I mean, what do they...
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, it's a--I think that's actually--I'm sure there's
a lot of candidates who would disagree with what I'm going to say, but
I think that's healthy, for two reasons. One is I think it's good for
somebody who wants to be president of the United States to get asked
impertinent questions and rude questions every once in a while,
both--particularly if it's from an average citizen. Number one, it
might be that it's not so rude or impertinent. It might just be a
signal to them that what they've been talking about does--doesn't bear
much relation to the concerns of an average person.
Secondly, it's interesting in--in--in trying to assess who a candidate
is and what they're made of, how they handle those situations are
sometimes interesting. In one of the--one of the--an--anecdotes that
I go through in the book, or one of the scenes that I describe, Bruce
Babbitt's meeting with a group of people, all very polite, it's a very
nice breakfast that they're having, and--and, you know, everyone's--it
was a give and take, but Shelley Nelkens is one of the people there,
and she just keeps going back at him and back at him and challenged
him on environmental issues. And he finally has to sort of deal
with her firmly but with a sense of humor, and in doing so, the other
people learn something about Babbitt, and so in a certain sense, it
was beneficial to him, at least in the sense that the people watching
it respond better.
The same thing--Al Rubega is showing Jack Kemp around Cheshire County.
They have a little reception, and a couple of people crash the
reception. I mean, not crash through the door, but they're there
without being invited. And they start challenging Kemp on the "Star
Wars" program, and Al Rubega steps forward to try to protect his
candidate, you know, f--from this--not harassment, but this challenge,
and finally Kemp pushes Al Rubega aside and s--and says, you know,
`Let--I'm the candidate here, and let me handle that.' And he knocked
it out of the ball park, and the people clapped and it turned out to
be an important moment for the Kemp campaign in--in--in that
So you get a chance to--to see whether somebody responds well or not.
I guess the classic example of that, in a little different respect,
was 1980, when Bush sort of froze at the microphone in the debate with
Reagan, who, you know, stood up and said, `I paid for this microphone,
Mr. Green,' and people, you know, rightly or wrongly, thought that
they saw a difference between the two in terms of their--you know,
what kind of mettle they had.
LAMB: You mentioned earlier that Bruce Babbitt was better in person
than he was on television?
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah.
LAMB: Who's better on--on television than they are in person?
Mr. DUNCAN: Oh--I th--I think that Pat Robertson probably was a
more--came across more forcefully and--and genially, actually, on
television than he did in person, and Al Haig also was better on
television than he was in person.
LAMB: Do you find people talking about those kind of things?
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah. Yeah, I mean the--you know, it's not everybody in
the--not everybody in the state is consumed with those things, but
particularly when there is that--that difference. I mean, the Babbitt
one was--was the incredibly extreme example of it, where people--a lot
of times, it was people seeing the candidate on TV and they meet him
in person, and they're sort of, you know, adjusting from that. But
with Babbitt's case, there was all these people who had met him and
were considering joining his campaign, and then they watched him on
television and they said, `Well, that's--he doesn't look the same.'
But they knew the real person, but nonetheless, they entered into
their judgment, well, if you're going to be president of the United
States, you've got to be able to come across that way, and a number of
people that I described ended up not supporting him because of that.
LAMB: Because you've had all this experience, I want to ask you to
help the next Democratic--or Democrat who might be a candidate up
there get started. Now let's--let's take--well, we don't have to take
Mr. DUNCAN: Candidate X.
LAMB: Candidate X.
Mr. DUNCAN: Democrat.
LAMB: Either has run before, or is thinking of running this time.
What are the five things you'd tell them to do that at least would
give him a shot at those 55,000 votes they need?
Mr. DUNCAN: Number one, I would read "Grass Roots," if I
LAMB: It costs $22.95. Yeah.
Mr. DUNCAN: Yeah, and it'll be the best investment you make. But it
would give you a sense of--you know, o--of a campaign. But more
seriously, you've got to come up to--if you want to be president of
the United States, you've got to run for president. That sounds
silly, but I think a lot of people, particularly some Democrats, are
thinking, `Well, you know, maybe I won't run in '92; I'll wait till
'96.' But I think they ought to run now. I would go--first go up to
New Hampshire and Iowa, meet some--you know, some core people. I
wouldn't get too hurried about trying to build an organization, but I
would go to New Hampshire, meet as many people as I could, give some
speeches, define yourself, define some turf on some issues.
LAMB: OK. Let's--let's just--let's home in on a little more than
that. Cheshire County...
Mr. DUNCAN: Right.
LAMB: I've never been to Cheshire County.
Mr. DUNCAN: OK.
LAMB: Yes, I have--I landed at Keene airport one time.
Mr. DUNCAN: OK.
LAMB: I've never been there otherwise, and I want to run for
president. Who do I call and--and--to start this thing off in--in
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, I would call--you--I would call Andy Johnson, or I
would call Tom Britton or Joe Robinson or Dan Burnham. Th...
LAMB: Who are they?
Mr. DUNCAN: They're all--they're all people that are Democrats,
they're involved in politics.
LAMB: What would I say to them?
Mr. DUNCAN: I--you--you'd say, you know, `I'm candidate--I'm--I'm
Senator X and I'm thinking of running for president, and I'd like to
come up to Keene and meet with you. Would you like to meet with me,
and maybe could you get a few people that you think would be
interested to get together in a living room?' And I--I would start off
by not coming into New Hampshire to tell them what I'm going to do,
but to listen to people, and--and just say--ask them for some advice,
but also say, you know, `I think the main issue that I'm--I'm
concerned with is whatever--whatever it is that you're interested in.'
I'm--I'm hoping that if you're running for president, number one,
you've got some ideas to begin with.
LAMB: But let's say I want somebody to do the groundwork for me to
get up there and get a lay of the land and who I should affiliate with
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, that's why I think you--that's why I think some
candidates make mistakes in--in picking who's going to be doing their
groundwork for them before they get a better sense themselves.
LAMB: Would you...
Mr. DUNCAN: I would send whoever your top political person is on
your staff. I'd send them up to New Hampshire, too, and have them go
around and meet the, you know, Democratic activists and make your own
judgment of--you know, not--not everybody is a political genius, and
so you got to make a judgment of whose advice do I think I could
follow? And the only way you can do that is the way a president has
to make his decisions, too. You got to rely on your own judgment and
the judgment of other people.
LAMB: OK. I get on the phone, I go up there, I meet with some folks.
What's another thing I do?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, then I'd try--I'd come back a little later, maybe
a month later and--and not only meet with them but try to--try to meet
with a constituency group if your--say your--your major issue is day
care--I would try to go to some day care centers and maybe go to the
Association of Day Care Providers, give a speech there about what you
want to do. You want to--you want to start establishing a presence
through the media as well. I shouldn't forget that...
LAMB: How--how--by the way, how do I do that? I--take Keene, for
Mr. DUNCAN: You--you go--in Keene, you would--the way you'd have to
do it is you'd go--walk into the offices of the Keene Sentinel, you
call ahead and say, `I'm thinking about running for president.' You
don't want to announce yet, but, `I'm thinking of running for
president, and I'm going to be in Keene. Would you like to si--I'd
like to sit down and talk with you, or if you'd like to talk with me.'
LAMB: Wou--who would you call, specifically, in Keene, New Hampshire,
Mr. DUNCAN: Tom Carney, the editor, yeah.
LAMB: And is Tom one of those guys that says, `Oh, here comes another
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, it depends--by--by the fifth time you called him,
he might say, `Here comes another one.' In 1976, when I was a reporter
there, we started passing Jimmy Carter around from one person to
another because we all were getting tired of him walking in, but, you
know, he started pretty--pretty early.
So you'd call him up, you'd call the radio s--there's two radio
stations, and you'd call them, and ask them if they'd like to talk to
you. So you want to do--what you want to do is you want to
make--establish some initial contacts with the people who hopefully
will start forming an organization for you, but also you don't want to
just--you want to make some--be noticed by the people who are going to
be voting later on.
LAMB: Where is Keene in the pecking order? In other words, where
would I go first, really, in the state?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, you would go first where the people live, and
Keene is the--about the--there are 10 counties, and it's about the
sixth in--in--in that order.
LAMB: What's the first?
Mr. DUNCAN: The first is Hillsborough County where Manchester, the
largest city, and Nashua, the second-largest city, are.
LAMB: What's the second?
Mr. DUNCAN: Second is--I think now is Rockingham County.
It's--there's--the southeastern corner of New Hampshire that butts up
against Massachusetts and is closest to Boston is the area. So
the--actually the first places you want to go are--are those places
and Concord, which is the state capital, and I think me--that county
is like the fourth largest, but it's sort of also a media hub.
LAMB: All right. I talked to the Keene Sentinel and the radio
stations and visited with some constituencies. What do I do next?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, you come back to Washington and--and tell your
fund-raisers, `I've been to New Hampshire. Things look good. Raise
some money for me.'
LAMB: Where do they go?
Mr. DUNCAN: Well, they'll probably go--they'll probably send you to
California. That's where--that's where you raise the money. You
don't raise any money in New Hampshire, you just spend some there.
LAMB: You don't raise any at all.
Mr. DUNCAN: Not really, no. First of all it's not--it's not very
big, and secondly, I think, unfortunately, there's a certain sense of
self-importance in a number of people in New Hampshire, and when you
try to hold a fund-raiser there as a presidential candidate, they say,
`Wait a minute. You don't get it. You go raise your money someplace
else and--and spend it here.'
LAMB: Another way to--to--you know, you're always talking about New
Hampshire not paying much tax. What's the real story there? I mean,
how do you--how do you function as a state if you don't pay any--do
you have an income tax?
Mr. DUNCAN: No, there's no s--there's no general sales or income
tax, but there are taxes. The main revenue is a tax--a business
profits tax. They have an actual tax on dividends and
interest--unearned interest. That's--that's a big source of revenue.
Liquor sales is very big, lottery and cigarette taxes.
LAMB: Guess what? We're out of time, and there's a lot more to talk
about, but some of it's in this book. "Grass Roots" is the name of
this book, by Dayton Duncan, our guest. Thank you very much for
Mr. DUNCAN: Thanks for having me.
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