CONCORD — Much like the presidential candidates who officially announce their campaigns well after hitting the trail, the opening of the One Vote '08 New Hampshire office on Wednesday was somewhat of a formality. Supporters wearing the group's signature black-and-white T-shirts have been a fixture at candidate appearances around the state for months.
Their goal is to make the fight against global poverty and disease a priority for presidential candidates. Their strategy is to show up everywhere the candidates go, urging them to take concrete steps to fight hunger and disease while improving access to clean water and education around the world.
GOP strategist Jack Oliver and former Clinton White House press secretary Mike McCurry attended the opening to emphasize the organization's bipartisan roots. The group's co-chairs are two former Senate majority leaders: Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee and Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
"At a time when Americans have great cynicism about the conflict in Washington and the ability to get along and actually accomplish anything, this is a case where Republicans and Democrats can actually come together," Oliver said.
Though the campaign eventually plans TV advertisements, mailings and a celebrity bus tour, the focus now is on New Hampshire and other early voting states including Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina. Oliver said New Hampshire, with its reputation for close scrutiny of candidates, was a model as the campaign's founders moved from idea to implementation.
"No candidate can come to New Hampshire and not answer a question," he said.
McCurry said he has campaigned with candidates in every New Hampshire primary since 1984.
"I can tell you for a fact that the number of times extreme poverty, malaria, the needs of the developing world, the children I saw dying of malaria in Africa were put on the national agenda ... were very far and few between," he said.
"I think about all the times I've been to New Hampshire, mostly on losing campaigns. I feel like with the One campaign, we've already won, because we're bringing together, we're igniting in this state and across the country a real deep passion and interest in the issue."
Joe Keefe, co-chairman of the group's New Hampshire chapter, said there are two simple reasons candidates — and all Americans — should support the One campaign — they have a moral obligation to help others, and it's in our national interest.
"I think we meet our maker at those pearly gates, we're going to be asked what we did about these starving children," he said. "I don't think God is going to accept an answer of, 'They live in other countries.' I don't think God is going to accept the answer, 'There's nothing we can do about it.'"