Cook On Concord: The presidential preliminaries are over

Hillary Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination, must wonder what happened to her on the way to the White House. What happened was the unexpected, unique and energizing candidacy of Barack Obama.

The legions of young and previously uninvolved people in the Obama campaign were unexpected by the Clinton forces and apparently negated the appeal of the prospect of a woman president. The Clinton campaign also apparently counted on a quick knockout in the Super Tuesday primaries following wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. After Obama won in Iowa, it was apparent that he had figured out the delegate count and was working in all of the caucus states. Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire and virtual tie on Super Tuesday could not stem the tide.

The Clinton people also must be wondering about the wisdom of the Democratic Party system for presidential selection, with the proportional delegate division instead of winner-take-all primaries and the presence of the so-called “superdelegates.” There is a strong case to be made that had Clinton been running under the Republican Party rules, she would have wrapped up the nomination some time ago.

However, Mrs. Clinton and her forces can reflect on strategy and rules at their leisure after they address the problem of her multimillion-dollar debt.

John McCain is probably the one Republican who has a chance of making it a race this year, since his reputation as a maverick and ability to come up with unorthodox proposals may enable him to claim to be the candidate of “change” instead of Obama. Already he is comparing “the right change” to “the wrong change.”

The candidates now turn their attention to selecting vice presidential candidates. You would think that this is an opportunity for each of them to pick the most qualified person to be president, and that would be a luxury that would serve the country well. However, that has not always been the result of vice presidential selection processes in the past. Discussion of inexperienced governors, regionally known senators and other choices that are less than well-qualified is mystifying.

Each candidate should pick the person who would run the country best, in his opinion, should the president be removed by disability, death or whatever.

Let us hope this is what they do. History does not necessarily support that hope.

So, the preliminary rounds are over, the conventions are coming and then the fall campaign will result in a new President in January. Based on the numbers of registrations, the number of people who voted in the primaries and those seeking to have change in control in Washington, the Democrats seem to be well positioned and the Republicans face an uphill battle.

Those who remember the effectiveness of “split government” under the Clinton administration should at least consider whether a strong Republican presence in the Congress would be a good antidote to an Obama presidency or whether a McCain presidency would be a good balance to what is almost certain to be a Democratic Congress.


Stephen Reno, chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, announced that he would step down from that position at the end of the next academic year.

Steve Reno has led the university system for almost a decade.

The university system coordinates Keene State College, Plymouth State University and its flagship, the University of New Hampshire, along with Granite State College, the continuing education school. There always has been some tension between the system and campus presidents, especially at UNH, the president of which served in the role the chancellor occupies until the chancellor position was established in the 1970s.

Chancellor Reno has led with grace, style, finesse and diplomacy. A first-rate scholar of comparative religion and former college president himself, he is a cheerful, energetic and friendly man. He has “done the job proud” and given a good name to the chancellorship. Indeed, he is universally recognized as the chancellor who has brought credibility to the position.

Steve Reno will be missed, and New Hampshire should be careful to make sure he stays here and is a continuing presence. Those who know him and have served with him in various capacities would miss his fountain pen, leather bound journal and bowtie, but more importantly his insightful comments and wisdom. Well done, Chancellor Reno!

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