N. Hampshire primaries color the streets

"I'm just enjoying the vibe," says a woman with a small silver digital camera in her hand.

obama n hampshire 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
obama n hampshire 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
Politics is a form of street theater or spectator sport here in New Hampshire on primary day. While politicians are still racing around the state shaking hands, residents flock to the street with cameras to record the show, just as one would a parade or a circus that is passing through town. "Can you see who they are talking with," asked one woman as she tried to peer through glass doors of the temporary NBC studio that had been set up for the occasion. "I wish they would let us in," she added. "I'm just enjoying the vibe," said one woman named Jodi, who had a small silver digital camera in her hand. She hadn't taken the time to vote yet, but she had been sure to wander through downtown Manchester to watch and snap celebrities. Over at The Merrimack Restaurant, caricatures of the candidates adorn the place mats on the table. They even painted a life size mural with politicians on one of the external brick walls. It started with former democratic candidate Gary Hart rented office space in the rooms above the restaurant, said New Hampshire resident Chris Kehas, who was helping out the restaurant owners during the election season. That was followed by former president William Clinton, who also used the upstairs space, the tall silver haired man said, as he pointed to the photographs of the two politicians on the restaurant wall. When Clinton's wife Hilary, a senator from New York, who is now campaigning for president on the democratic ticket walked the restaurant, the staff told her, "This is Bill's house," recalled Kehas, as a smile broke over his wrinkled face. Standing by a wall of photographs of former presidential hopefuls, he recalled how Bill Clinton has stood outside on shaking hands and campaigning on the snow streets. Not everyone who rents those rooms has been successful. Early on in the campaign there was a republican from Chicago in the upstairs rooms. "I can't even remember his name," said Kehas who is a retired education professor. It's current occupant is a democratic representative from Ohio, Dennis Kucinich, who is trailing in the polls. By now, Kehas said, the restaurant which is owned by Connie Farr and Maria Saitas has become an institution. Pollsters and reporters work off of the tables in their restaurant. Candidates and other politicians who are stumping for them have been known to wander through and shake hands. Outside their windows, several dozen campaign signs were stuck in the melting snow and reporters stood quizzing residents as to how they would vote. One man with a three cornered hat made from tinfoil sat on the stairs of a nearby public building by a sign for Kucinich. But politicians weren't on his mind. "It's to protect against radiation" he told the puzzled pedestrians. It's a statement about how harmful the environment has become, he added.