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Edwards Goes In Search Of New Hampshire Voters

Nashua, New Hampshire--John Edwards thinks he has a great closing argument to win over New Hampshire voters. Now he just needs to find some to make it to.

This morning Edwards showed up in a tidy middle-class neighborhood here intent on delivering his message about fighting for the middle class and against corporate greed. The only problem was, as Edwards went house to house knocking on doors, a lot of people weren’t home. And those who were home were, more often than not, visiting from out of state.

An elderly woman at the first home Edwards visited told the candidate that its owners—her son and daughter-in-law—were out. And where was she from? Edwards asked—ready to launch into his spiel. Florida, she said, leading the candidate to beat a hasty retreat. At another house, the person answering the door told Edwards he was up from North Carolina visiting relatives, sucking the candidate into a conversation about his home state that he really didn’t seem to want to be having at that moment. When Edwards did find a living, breathing New Hampshire voter, he looked more relieved than excited.

Time is obviously at a premium on the campaign trail these days, and the fact that Edwards took time away from Iowa to come to New Hampshire today was a bit surprising. Edwards needs to win Iowa more than Obama and Clinton do; but a win in Iowa won’t do Edwards much good if he can’t convert it into a strong finish in New Hampshire. The Edwards strategy has always been to ride the Iowa bounce to victory in New Hampshire, as John Kerry did in 2004. But this cycle’s compressed primary calendar could make that hard.

While a momentum-surfing candidate doesn’t want too much to elapse between contests—witness John McCain in 2000, who watched the Bush campaign tear him apart in the three weeks between the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries—too little time can be a problem, as well. And with only five days between Iowa and New Hampshire this year, Edwards might not have enough time to ride any Iowa bounce to a sufficient enough height to capture New Hampshire.

And so Edwards is paying one last visit to New Hampshire before kicking off an eight-day tour in Iowa tomorrow. (Obama, by contrast, is spending the rest of his time before the Iowa Caucuses in Iowa.) Later today Edwards held town-hall meetings in Conway and Laconia, before doing events in Manchester and Salem this evening. Hopefully he’ll have better luck finding some actual New Hampshire voters at those.

 --Jason Zengerle