Don’t blame voters if they’re slightly distracted

NASHUA – If David Ortiz were running for office, New Hampshire would be more than a swing state.

Tuesday’s election would be a home run.

But, Ortiz isn’t running for office, he’s playing baseball – the reason Nov. 2 isn’t the only potentially historic day citizens have on their minds.

In a week that should be monopolized by pre-election hype, New Hampshire residents are worried about something other than who will be the next leader of the free world. They’re worried about the World Series.

Between watching the Boston Red Sox and campaigning for the Democratic Party, Mark Vallone is exhausted. But, since he isn’t willing to sacrifice either commitment, something else has to give.

“I just don’t sleep much,” Vallone said. “I watch the Sox on TV and follow the election on the computer.”

Vallone, an Epping resident, stood outside of the gubernatorial debate at Daniel Webster College on Tuesday night carrying John Kerry and John Lynch posters and wearing a Red Sox baseball cap.

Vallone said he was hoping the game would be rained out so he wouldn’t have to miss it. Sunday, when Kerry flew into the Pease International Airport in Portsmouth, Vallone had to keep tabs on the game via cell phone.

Red Sox Nation has become such a literal term that even the presidential candidates are forced to plan their campaign schedules around New Hampshire’s recent baseball obsession.

Kerry visited New Hampshire on Monday and President Bush is scheduled to visit Friday. Those two days are the only off days for the Red Sox this week.

State Trooper J. Downey of New Durham expressed the ultimate commitment to the Sox at Tuesday’s debate. He said if there is a Game 7, and it falls Nov. 2 (if it is postponed from Sunday), his television will be tuned to the World Series.

“The election is pretty decisive,” Downey said. “The Red Sox are still up in the air.”

Paul Hodes, the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat, speculated that more people watched his debate last Wednesday because it aired right before Game 7 of the Sox-Yankees American League Championship Series.

“I think Red Sox fans are having attention-deficit disorder when it comes to the election. But we had a very large audience for our debate,” Hodes said.

However, not all New Hampshire residents are consumed by Red Sox fever. Bill Mackenzie, a Goffstown resident originally from New Jersey, is not a big fan of baseball.

“Maybe to the extent that sports figures have become idols is dangerous to the country,” Mackenzie said. “People can get so excited about someone hitting a ball. I don’t understand it.”

Mackenzie said he is more concerned about next week’s election than who wins the Series. He will be focusing on issues like voting for candidates who support education programs in the coming days.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, the incumbent for the 2nd District seat said the games are not affecting his campaign because people can focus on politics during the day. However, he did say he won’t campaign after 8 p.m., around the time most Red Sox games start.

But, for people like Vallone, following both the election and the Red Sox is a delicate balance that may not last another week.

“My nightmare is the seventh game falling on the night before elections,” Vallone said.