And YOU thought Bush was running unopposed in the Republican primary. Pffft.
All the parking spaces outside Lupo's Seafood Restaurant are full, but the crowd didn't come to see Dick Bosa -- it's pasta night. Still, Bosa will say here what he says in any hardware store and radio station and hotel lobby that will let him in the door: "Hello, I'm Dick Bosa and I'm running against Bush. There is a Republican primary, you know."
Repeat to Bosa the common myth that President Bush is running unopposed and you are in for a jab of his thick finger. There will be 14 Republicans listed on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot besides the one who currently holds the office. Among them are Bosa, the former mayor of Berlin, in northern New Hampshire; Michael Callis, a bricklayer from Conway; and Robert Haines, who could safely be described as a colorful character familiar to patrons of the coffee shop Breaking New Grounds in Portsmouth.
Each of them has a Web site, at least one die-hard supporter (wife, girlfriend, child, loyal employee), and $1,000, which is all you need in New Hampshire to file your bid for the presidency (most states require a few thousand signatures). Bosa showed up on the afternoon of the last possible filing date, Nov. 21, and paid his fee in coins, for reasons having to do with the hegemony of the Federal Reserve but also "because as a dark horse candidate I have to make a splash."
Locals justify their claim to the nation's first binding presidential primary with a romantic Horatio Alger-ish notion: In this tiny state, anyone with gumption and a good pair of boots can triumph over the established political machines by making his claim directly to the voters, the old-fashioned democratic way. Of course, by "anyone" they mean someone such as John McCain, Gary Hart or Pat Buchanan, all of whom have won the primary. But tell that to Dick Bosa.
"I'm more credible than [Wesley] Clark or Al Sharpton," he says, mentioning some of the Democrats running. "At least I was elected mayor."
Some of the candidates are on quixotic crusades that seem to be driven mainly by inner voices. Haines, for example, lists his issues as "national security," "the economy," "health care, of course." But after a while he'll get around to the "Dark Side, okay . . . the deliberate attempt by the Dark Side to infiltrate the church," he told the Dartmouth Review. (Haines was not available for comment, as he was serving time for a parole violation.) For Callis, the central issue facing this nation is "Max Hugel" (CIA deputy director under President Reagan) and "the way the central intelligence agencies in this country have been conducting themselves."
Judged by effort, the most serious Republican candidates are Bosa and John Rigazio, a Rochester, N.H., businessman who owns several variety stores that sell "cigarettes, alcohol, potato chips, juices, those kinds of things," says Claire Nugent, a cashier who moonlights as his spokeswoman and single campaign employee because "I believe in everything he says."
For both of them the central issue is the same: "Jobs, jobs, jobs," as Rigazio says; the loss of manufacturing jobs in New Hampshire and the nation, more broadly the neglect of the working stiff at the hands of "large worldwide corporations," more broadly still the triumph in America of a rich entitled blueblood class as embodied by President Bush.
Still, it's a lonely crusade. These candidates travel alone, hold their own signs, get their own glasses of water and often hold news conferences with no media in attendance. When they say they had a radio interview, they mean they called the station during the caller response period.
Rigazio held a town meeting at the Rochester Opera House recently that drew 80 people on a blizzard night. But mostly he's known for running ads in two major local papers, open letters costing him an estimated total of $200,000, each running 800 words and full of emphatic capital letters.
"To those of us who listen to the MEDIA tell us that the RECESSION IS OVER and the JOBS are a LAGGING ECONOMIC INDICATOR but JOBS will soon PICK UP as the ECONOMIC RECOVERY PROGRESSES, I have to wonder HOW DUMB the media (who spread our government's FALSE FIGURES to us) think the public is."