NHRSC's First-in-the-Nation Primary 
Kick Off Dinner
"A Vision for the New Millennium"
Manchester, NH   May 2, 1999
Photos Copyright 1999 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.  All rights reserved.


"You had a great collection of candidates talking about their ideas for the future of this country and a great chance to energize the activists."
--Steve Duprey
Chairman, NHRSC

"Whether the nominee is Elizabeth Dole or George W. Bush or Lamar Alexander or Steve Forbes or you can go on and on and on, it doesn't matter. The...sense is that any one of these people here tonight, or not here tonight, are stronger candidates than the Gore candidacy."

--Pat Griffin
Republican consultant

The New Hampshire Republican State Committee's First-in-the-Nation Primary Kick Off Dinner on May 2, 1999 was the biggest event of the 2000 campaign to date, drawing eight Republican presidential hopefuls.  Of the field, only Texas Gov. George W. Bush (in Austin for the legislative session), Sen. John McCain (at home in Arizona helping to celebrate his son's 13th birthday), and Pat Buchanan (in Washington state "for an engagement he could not get out of") failed to put in personal appearances and only Buchanan had no noticeable presence whatsoever. Of the eight candidates who showed up, six took advantage of the event to put in a day or two campaigning in the Granite State.  The dinner itself drew more than 1,100 people and raised over $100,000 for the state party.

Seven Minute Speeches

RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson, Sen. Judd Gregg and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge led off the evening.  Ridge, mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick, pointed to the 31 Republican governors leading states with a total of 340 electoral votes and said the GOP should  "take some important lessons from the successes we have enjoyed in the states."  

The eight presidential hopefuls then spoke in order determined by lot.  New Hampshire's own Sen. Bob Smith received perhaps the warmest reception of the evening.  Smith pointed out some recent Republican failings, laid out a conservative program, and delivered the best line of the night when he declared, "Rather than selling the Lincoln bedroom for $50,000, I'm going to give it free of charge to the Teacher of the Year."  RNC chairman Jim Nicholson indulged the "hometown boy" and let him go over a minute or two.  Elizabeth Dole drew a boo for talking at some length about gun control, and this became probably the biggest story of the night.  Dole spoke from the floor rather than the podium, as is her wont.

Alexander  | Bauer  |  Dole  | Forbes  |  Kasich  |  Keyes  |  Quayle  |  Smith

In general, however, all the candidates were well received. The fiercely pro-life Keyes, playing off the 11th Commandment theme of the evening, vowed not to "stand silently by while fellow Republicans rip out the moral heart of this party."  Bauer focused on the shootings in Littleton, Colorado; he began his speech with the question, "Do you believe in God?"  Kasich said the time has come to "run America from our families and from our communities to the top rather than to be dictated from the top-down solutions in our society."  Forbes, echoing Lincoln, declared, "A new birth of freedom--that should be our mission, that should be our vision."  Alexander also reflected on the tragedy in Littleton. "It is time to put our government and our culture back on the side of parents raising children," he stated.

The absence of front running Gov. Bush provided a subtext for the evening.  Some activists were a bit miffed that Bush had chosen not to appear, but his New Hampshire supporters created a well-decorated movie theatre themed table in the tent area, complete with tickets, bags of popcorn and even Christmas lights for a marquee. Bush, the "coming attraction," is scheduled to visit the state in mid June.

Tent Talk
Before the dinner and the seven-minute speeches, activity focused on a tent outside the Center, where all campaigns except Buchanan's set up tables with literature and materials.  Democracy in Action asked a person at each table, "Why would your candidate make the best president?"

On Lamar Alexander--"I think he would make a fantastic president because he really cares for the American public.  He believes in family, he believes in a strong military, he wants to make things possible so that parents can spend more time with their children, that we have better teachers in the school system; just a lot of wonderful values that we had many years ago."

On Gary Bauer--"Because America is ready for a change.  It's time that we go back to a man with principles and character, a man who means what he says, a man who doesn't speak two languages.  I believe our children, the next generation, need to see that the leader of the free world is a man who can be trusted and taken at his word, and I believe Gary Bauer represents that."

On George W. Bush--"Governor Bush has shown in Texas real leadership, and he's put conservative principles into practice in the state.  It's one thing for people to talk about what they're going to do or if they're in Congress just to legislate it, it's another thing to be governor and to actually put a plan into action.  And he's been able to do that in Texas and been able to do it with bipartisan support..."

On Steve Forbes--"I'm voting for Steve and I'm working for Steve because he's one of the few candidates that I know that actually has an agenda...  It's returning freedom back to people, whether its parental choice for schools, returning money back--getting rid of the complicated tax code that we have..."

On John Kasich--"Because he has his feet on the ground, he's level-headed, he's creative, he did balance the budget...  He comes across very honest, and he's very easy to talk to..."

On Alan Keyes--Because I believe Alan Keyes is speaking to the core issues, and the core issue as far as I'm concerned is that a lot of Americans have lost touch with their heritage, and that is the Declaration of Independence...  All of our human rights, all of our civil rights emanate from an acknowledgment of the Creator as endowing them."

On John McCain--John McCain is a man of integrity who will bring integrity and leadership back to the White House.  He doesn't need a poll or a staff to tell him what he believes; he knows where he stands on all the issues."

On Dan Quayle--"Because he has family values and he has a strong wife...  Marilyn will be a big help to the families of this country..." 

On Bob Smith--"Because he's the most conservative candidate that there is, and he's been re-elected for 15 years standing for the core conservative issues that Republicans should be for...  I like him because he's never backed down on any issue that I like, like abortion or second amendment rights or national sovereignty...."