NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 8, 2014

Shribman: Beverly's would-be write-in president

(Continued)

But Goldwater was discovering that his candor was unsettling in a state that prized social rest, and Rockefeller was discovering that Hampshiremen, as residents here were then known, were curiously immune to his how-are-ya-fella charm, particularly when it came from out of state and from a millionaire who had to borrow petty cash to buy a heart-shaped box of Valentine’s chocolates for the woman he married after abandoning his first wife. (William Loeb, himself twice divorced, described Rockefeller in his Manchester Union Leader newspaper as a “Home Wrecker.”)

It didn’t help either candidate’s case that each possessed a manner — as opposite in style as it was in ideology — that was slightly out of tune in a state whose politics then moved to the rhythm of a Broadway show, perhaps “Brigadoon,” which sometimes is employed as a metaphor for the quadrennial pageant and performance art of the primary here.

Rockefeller spoke of the world as a conundrum of intertwined complexities. Goldwater spoke of the world as black-and-white simplicities suited to a country where only 3 percent owned color televisions in 1964. “His candor,” said presidential chronicler Theodore H. White, “is the completely unrestrained candor of old men and little children.”

This atmosphere — two established political figures working from their established playbooks — was peculiarly suited to an insurgency, engineered by four amateurs in search of “something fun and exciting to do.” They put down $400 to rent a Concord storefront, hired a sign painter for $162, sent out 96,000 letters and spent $750 on a crude “documentary” on the life of Lodge, still safely tucked away 10,000 miles from Manchester.

“This write-in thing came pretty much out of nowhere,” says State Rep. David Hess of Hooksett, the deputy Republican leader of the state House of Representatives who, as a Dartmouth senior, had been recruited by the college dean to organize the northern third of Grafton County for Rockefeller. “It swept everyone away. Rocky and Barry were left behind — and it was a shocker, even to those of us on the ground. There’s never been anything like it.”

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