Politicians have ways of gauging where they stand. Some count yard signs, some dwell on polls or voting data. Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas, who’s never lost an election, has another touchstone.
“The street tells you more than any poll,” Gatsas said Monday, standing not on the street, but in the shade of the clubhouse at Manchester Country Club, which was hosting a golf tournament. “The street tells that it feels good, people are listening. It looks like they are pretty excited.”
Gatsas waved and nodded as players piloted their carts to the first tee, and puzzled over the game’s appeal.
“You start with it and it’s in your hand,” Gatsas said. “And 4-and-a-half hours you chase it, and after 4-and-a half hours you pick it up and it’s in your hand again.”
Minutes later Gatsas was across town at the Puritan backroom, making a cameo appearance at the birthday party of 93-year-old Barbara Swanson of Allenstown.
Swanson said she’d be voting tomorrow, but said her choice was private. She was still sipping her Shirley Temple when another Republican running for Governor, Chris Sununu, wandered up with former Manchester Mayor Ray Wieczorek.
“Happy birthday, terrific,” Sununu said. “I’m Chris, nice to see you. Nice to see you. How are you? What’s on the agenda for the birthday?”
“You got to shake a lot of hands, that’s what it’s about,” Sununu added. “Campaigns are face to face that’s the only way to do it.”
Those sentiments are the rule during the run up to any election.
Another GOP gubernatorial hopeful, Jeannie Forrester, tried to get in some face time of her own on an afternoon visit to Weed Automotive in Concord.
Forrester, who’s pinned her hopes on grassroots politicking, says at this point in the campaign the only thing to do is go all out.
“The last day is like Ray Burton, three votes behind,” Forrester said, referring to the late executive councilor. “I may be six votes behind. But I think our message is carrying.”
We will find out how far tomorrow.
On the Democratic side, Mark Connolly, a former securities regulator, spent the day campaigning with a flock of current and former state senators through Manchester and Nashua.
Stopping in at Bridge Café in Manchester, Connolly pledged to make fighting the drug crisis, reforming education funding and maintaining Medicaid expansion some of his top priorities if elected.
“I am not the Concord candidate,” Connolly said at the café. “I am not the insiders’ choice. I am not a political person in the sense of making this a career.
"But I’ll tell you what I am: I’m a person with a vision who wants to make New Hampshire a safer and stronger place. If I’m elected, I will go to Concord, I will set that vision, execute it and I’ll stay as long as it takes for me to make sure NH is meeting the challenge of the 21st century economy.”
Just across town, former Portsmouth mayor Steve Marchand was going at it on his own. Outside Chez Vachon, Marchand seemed confident with the momentum he was picking up in the final stretch of the campaign.
“It’s a little bit like the engine that very much could,” Marchand remarked before ducking into the restaurant.
Inside, Marchand did find at least one voter who was on newly his side: Jennifer Stitt, of Bedford, was especially impressed with his performance in last week’s debates.
“I have been looking into so much more about you versus the two opponents for the Democratic side, and — oh my gosh, I am absolutely sold,” Stitt told Marchand. “I love your data-driven approach. I think it’s really the way to go.”
Meanwhile, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern’s agenda for the day included a canvassing shift in Nashua, where a small crowd of volunteers were stationed around a table, making rounds of calls to potential supporters reminding them about tomorrow’s primary.
“We want you to bring it to victory tomorrow,” one volunteer told Van Ostern. “We’re working hard.”
“Well, it’s going to depend on lots of people talking to friends and neighbors all around the state,” Van Ostern replied.
The volunteer told Van Ostern she was getting ready to head out and knock on some doors soon. The candidate said he wouldn’t be far behind.
“I get to go knock on the 27,000th home that we’re reaching out to this weekend,” Van Ostern said. “27,000 homes, that’s not bad.”
As of just a few weeks ago, most voters said they still didn’t know enough about any of the Democratic candidates to have an informed opinion about them.
As for how successful they’ve been at getting their names out since then, we’ll find out Tuesday night.