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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 01:28 GMT
Carnival feel to first primary

Anti-Clinton protester Bill Donovan More anti-Clinton than pro-Bush

By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in New Hampshire

Once every four years, New Hampshire takes centre stage on the political scene of the United States, and the media attention draws an interesting cast of characters.

George Sommers drove from the nearby state of Massachusetts to take in the almost carnival atmosphere of primary day.

The self-described "total political junkie" came to see the media scrum and possibly meet some of the candidates, but more than that, "we're just into the hype and hoopla of the whole scene".

Centre for a Sound Economy representative Fighting taxes on the net
Of course, there is the crush of the cameras and the mob of supporters that surround the candidates, but to rise above the noise of such an event, people from across the political spectrum go to great lengths to be seen and heard.

At one of John McCain's recent town hall meeting, a representative from the conservative think-tank Centre for a Sound Economy asked the candidate whether he would fight against taxation of the internet.

That in and of itself was not unusual, but the questioner was dressed in a shark suit.

Political junkie Mr Sommers also ran into people dressed in animal costumes, but instead of a shark, it was two people dressed as pigs driving the streets of Manchester in a convertible.

"I don't know if it was pork barrel spending they were protesting or what, but it was kind of humorous," he said.

Anti-Clinton protest

Mr Sommers also saw protesters at a rally for publishing magnate Steve Forbes brandishing "Billionaires for Forbes" signs.

But candidates did not even have to be running for office to elicit the ire of some protesters.

Media circus The media comes to town
Bill Donovan wears a vest covered with political buttons and a suitcase plastered with George W Bush bumper stickers.

But more than being for George W Bush, he is against Bill Clinton, even though the president cannot and is not running for re-election.

Mr Donovan makes his contempt for President Clinton clear.

He wears a mask caricaturing the president, and his vest is covered with political buttons of, as he said, "anybody and everybody against Clinton".

"If he ran for dog catcher, I wouldn't vote for him," he said.

But Mr Donovan also wants to motivate people to vote.

"Some of these people don't want to come out there and vote, but when they see something like this, they will come to their senses," he said.

Getting noticed

While some are here to support or protest against a candidate, others are here to get their message out.

Steven Swan believes that people can legally avoid paying federal income tax, and he wants to tell people how.

Anti-tax protester Steven Swan Cashing in on the media attention
But he said that a statewide newspaper will not take advertisements for his seminars, and they have stopped printing his letters to the editor.

"We're having difficulty getting this message out," he said.

He stood in the lobby of a hotel that served as one of the main filing centres for journalists.

He was wearing a yellow sandwich-board sign telling people that they could legally exempt themselves from paying federal income tax.

He thought he could take his message directly to the media because "this is where the world's media comes to for the New Hampshire primary every four years".

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Lights and music on the campaign trail
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Voters head for first primary
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New Hampshire: Kingmaker state
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