Cook On Concord: Memories of Paul Newman, a N.H. visitor

The late Paul Newman was not just a great actor, philanthropist and race car driver, he also had connections to New Hampshire politics.

On primary election night in 1968, Newman, supporting Eugene McCarthy, was prominent at the convention center of the old Sheraton Wayfarer in Bedford. Coming from a gathering of “Rockefeller write-in” supporters whose festivities were short-lived, we went and watched the festivities as McCarthy tripped President Lyndon Johnson. Newman addressed the crowd and was a prominent center of attention, along with many national celebrities.

The following year, sitting alone at a desk in the Memorial Union Building at the University of New Hampshire, I saw a man enter the outer office and he asked me, “Can I use the phone?” I said, “Yes, if you have a credit card.” He did. He made his phone call, graciously stopped to thank me and I noticed that he had startlingly blue eyes, and he started to leave. I thought he looked vaguely familiar. As he exited the office, the student government secretary was coming in and nearly fainted dead away. She asked me if I knew who that was and I said that he looked familiar. “That was Paul Newman, you schmuck,” was the reply.

Finally, on primary night in 1972, Newman was campaigning with California Congressman Pete McCloskey, an anti-war, long-shot opponent of President Nixon in the GOP race. McCloskey had been campaigning in New Hampshire for some time with a very limited staff. I came back to New Hampshire from law school to participate in the process and was pressed into service by some McCloskey supporters. Since I knew the campus, I was assigned the task of driving Newman and McCloskey from sorority house to sorority house at UNH, where the men addressed the sorority sisters, much to the delight of all.

Peering at the two joking together in the back seat of a large Mercury sedan, I also noticed that they were handing back and forth a flask of peach schnapps.

Paul Newman celebrated what makes New Hampshire politics special and historic. New Hampshirites will miss him.


At the recent retreat of the board of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, pollster Andy Smith of the UNH Survey Center made some interesting observations about the state of New Hampshire politics and what it will take to win in November.

Among the notable observations was that New Hampshire now leans Democratic as a state, with 41 percent of registered voters undeclared and 30 to 31 percent apiece for the Democrats and Republicans. He also indicated also that New Hampshire is on track to become a solidly Democratic state, since 40 percent of undeclared voters really are Democrats while only 30 percent really are Republicans.

As for the November elections, Smith thought the presidential race would be close and could be won by either candidate. Going out on a limb, he predicted that Gov. John Lynch would win re-election, but said that the U.S. Senate race could be close.

On the congressional races, Smith guessed that Congressman Paul Hodes in the 2nd District would probably win re-election, while freshman Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter could be defeated by former Congressman Jeb Bradley.

Smith also thought the state Senate probably would remain Democratic, although Republicans could win back the House, which was affected largely by straight ticket voting in 2006 and there is no straight ticket voting in 2008.

He noted that GOP voters stayed home in 2006 and that probably will not be repeated.

Smith was followed by Josiah Bartlett Center President Charles Arlinghaus, who commented on the political scene, as well. Among his interesting observations were that “Barack Obama is Ronald Reagan” — an unknown who if he wins the confidence of the people could overcome perceived inexperience and do very well.

Arlinghaus also talked about the problems of a state budget with a $250 million gap and the possible sources of income to fill the gap, telling the assembled business representatives that business taxes are always an easy source, since they produce so much revenue and “only another three-quarters of a percent” seems like an easy thing to say in the halls of the State House when seeking revenue.

Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association.