NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 9, 2013

Presidential politics frozen in place

BRETTON WOODS, N.H. — The other day the mid-afternoon wind chill at the top of Mount Washington was minus 73 degrees, with winds of 61 mph. For two days Wildcat Mountain, spiritual home of the toughest, most fearless skiers in New England, actually closed because of the cold. One newspaper warned that the exceptionally low temperatures could dangerously lower motorists’ tire pressure.

The whole state is frozen, physically and politically. The weather deep freeze will soon pass, although the snow atop Mount Washington, the enduring symbol of this state’s ruggedness and independence, won’t melt until July. The political freeze will last longer, especially among Democrats. There will be no movement until two political figures make their intentions known.

One is Hillary Rodham Clinton, the consensus front-runner here if she decides to return to the state where her husband mounted an astonishing comeback in 1992 and where she defeated Barack Obama 16 years later. The other is Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who, though he would be almost 74 on Election Day 2016, is contemplating a third presidential campaign.

As a result, the silent season of presidential politics — when ambitious governors and senators make subterranean calls to area code 603 and quietly court activists, state legislators and prominent politicos — has been put on ice.

The one exception, underlining the level of attention paid to small acts three years from the next New Hampshire primary: The entire political establishment is wondering whether there is any truth to the rumor that state Senate Democratic leader Sylvia Larsen recently received a handwritten note from Clinton. (“Yes, I did,” she said in a telephone interview, confirming the scuttlebutt preoccupying scores of people who live for such morsels and ruminate on what such a note might signal. The rest of the country has better things, like the Super Bowl, to think about.)

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