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Trickling Through State House, Candidates Hope the Math is on Their Sides


The list of official candidates for the New Hampshire Presidential Primary will grow by two names today, as two candidates from opposite ends of the name-recognition scale – Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jim Gilmore – are scheduled to pass through the State House today.

They’re part of a several week long ritual, which kicked off last Wednesday, where contenders for the White House must formally file their candidacy papers with the New Hampshire Secretary of State to get on the state’s primary ballot.

This filing technicality has evolved into an elaborate media ritual, with candidates often turning the appointment in the State House into a mini campaign rally.

It also provides a series of opportunities for local reporters to see the candidates up close – to literally sit across the table from them – and hear their stump speeches in perhaps their most concentrated forms.

And here’s something we noticed about those little sit-downs: In addition to the usual laundry list of policy proposals and attacks against a rival or two, each candidate has a handful of numbers they throw out, often with a robotic intensity, meant to buttress some key pillar of their appeal to voters. It’s as though the figures are intended to lend some mathematical rigor to the airy platitutes of the campaign trail.

To illustrate what we mean, here are the seven candidates to have filed for the New Hampshire ballot so far, by the numbers:

Martin O’Malley relied on basic math to underscore his recurring call for more debates in the Democratic primary calendar: “We have only had one debate so far. By the same time eight years ago, we had had nine debates.”

For Marco Rubio, statistics were a way to frame one of his major appeals to the GOP electorate: a compelling, Everyman personal history: “I know what it’s like to have $100,000 in student loans and how hard it was to pay it back; that’s why I’m so passionate about that issue.”

John Kasich sought to use numbers to affirm his commitment to the classic model of New Hampshire grassroots campaigning: “I think I did my 26th town hall meeting. I can’t think of a better way to do things.”

Bernie Sanders used statistics to call attention to his singular fundraising prowess: “We’ve raised 750,000 individual contributions so far, an average of $30 per person.”

Carly Fiorina showed a firm grasp of her position – both past and present – within the polling hierarchy of the GOP field: “I was 16 out of 16 when I started campaigning here . . . and now we’re somewhere between 4th and 6th — that’s a good place to be.”

Chris Christie was fluent with figures on a recent bit of social media buzz: a YouTube video of him at a New Hampshire campaign stop, describing a personal connection to the opioid epidemic. The clip, Christie told reporters, had logged “6.7 million hits, and it was uploaded six days ago.” (Christie also had some polling data at his fingertips: “I’ve quadrupled my support. . . . The poll that before had me at 2 percent now has me at 8 percent.”

Donald Trump was rather breezy when it came to hard figures last week. But he did talk about one of his favorite units of measurement: TV viewership ratings, as well as (of course) opinion polls: “I get the highest ratings ever – they don’t cave, why would they cave? And by the way did you look at the new Nevada poll? I’m leading with Hispanics. Go check it out.”