Cook On Concord: On Dem side, presidential campaign remains topsy-turvy

When Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, many observers thought Barack Obama was through. His string of victories thereafter had Mrs. Clinton counted out and looking desperate in anticipation of the March 4 primaries, Super Tuesday having been somewhat inconclusive. Then, on March 4, voters in Rhode Island, Ohio and Texas gave her the popular vote victory and, it looked like the Obama momentum had stopped and Clinton momentum had resumed.

But in this topsy-turvy year, what appears to be true generally has not been. Indeed, while Clinton won the popular vote in the three states, Obama’s lead in delegates to the Democratic National Convention next summer was not affected much.

It appears that neither candidate will be able to score a knockout by attaining a majority of delegates in the primaries, which makes the “superdelegates” more important. How they are going to react to inside and outside pressures is going to be fascinating.

On the Republican side, perhaps even a bigger surprise occurred, as John McCain captured enough delegates on March 4 to clinch the nomination, prompting Gov. Mike Huckabee, the last opponent with any chance, to withdraw and support McCain.

Given McCain’s status as almost finished last summer, the importance of New Hampshire is apparent. When told he had no chance because his staff had squandered all of the funds he had amassed, McCain came to New Hampshire, got on a bus or in automobiles, criss-crossed the state and almost single-handedly resuscitated his campaign which went on to win in New Hampshire, a victory even more surprising to me, since I voted for him and rarely have done so for those winning GOP primaries.

Of course, the question for McCain is how he wins in what appears to be a Democratic year? Republicans have been in office for eight years and President Bush is not popular. The country seems to be in a recession, or close to one. Gas prices are over $3 a gallon. There are two wars going on. There is a huge deficit. There is a Democratic Congress. Not a good group of circumstances for a Republican candidate to face.

On the upside, McCain can sit back and watch the Democrats fight, raise money, plan for a celebratory convention with a sure winner, and think about who the most effective vice presidential candidate would be.

McCain’s challenge, however, is to keep his image as an independent thinker who embraces ideas that are not in accord with the right-wing rhetoric of the present Republican Party without alienating the very people he needs to have enthusiastic about his candidacy if he is to retain the base.

These are fascinating political developments in an unconventional year.


More baby boomers were born in 1948 than any other year, if I recall correctly. That means that the high school class of 1966 was the largest, and therefore getting into college that year was more competitive than ever before.

Those who entered college in 1966 and were born in 1948, cannot escape a reality when looking at the calendar. This is 2008. Fast mathematics indicates that the 2008 birthday will be a round number.

Frank Sinatra once sang a song that started, “I reached the age of 40 somewhat sooner than expected … .” Those 1948 boomers undoubtedly will experience the same thought about 60. Increasingly, I have run into people who have been reaching this milestone and having various reactions to it. On the one hand, they indicate that it beats the alternative. On the other, they cannot quite get used to the disconcerting thought of 60 as their age.

I have a number of friends with whom I went to college, including Bruce Bynam, a native of Goffstown and now on the staff of the University of Massachusetts, Ernest Stableford, with whom I grew up and also went to college at UNH and many others who were born in 1948. Each has had a separate and distinct reaction to this year’s birthday.

On March 3, it was my turn. Everyone was gracious, encouraging and tried to persuade me that “60 is the new 40,” or some such thing. There is a grain of truth in that. When I started practicing law in the 1970s, those writing wills after their 65th birthday had to be very careful (not that everyone does not have to be careful) because they might really die. Men now live into their early 80s and women into their mid- and upper 80s, at least actuarially.

Nevertheless, getting to 60 is a sign that the baby boomers no longer are kids and will have serious demographic ramifications for the country, the workforce, Social Security and other things.

All that is interesting, but the number still is disconcerting! Get me my cane!

Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.