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New Hampshire haunts Bob Dole. When he first ran for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1980, Dole got 597 votes -- good for last place in a seven-man field. He did better in 1988, but he was supposed to win; finishing second to George Bush doomed his candidacy.

What is it about New Hampshire, and how do you go about winning there? Let Dole explain it. "People pay attention to the first of anything," Dole said earlier this year. "They pay even more attention if you're seen as the front runner, so if you stumble in New Hampshire, you're dead. Other folks become 'hot.' It's as simple as that."

But winning isn't that simple at all. "You can talk issues and vision for the country -- you can cover all of those bases and still lose," said Dole. "The key in New Hampshire is organization. Voters there get personal about their relationships with you and will stick with you and save you if you're in trouble. That's what happened in '88. I got myself elected President of Iowa. Bush came in third there, but his New Hampshire organization wiped out my Iowa bounce. I've learned. I will absolutely not be out organized in New Hampshire this time."

Which is where Dave Carney comes in. At 36, Carney is already a legend among Republican operatives. He cut his teeth running the field operations for John Sununu's losing 1980 race for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. That was when Carney lived in an unplugged walk-in refrigerator in a bagel deli and showered at a YMCA across the street. Carney followed Sununu into Bush's '88 campaign and then served as the White House political director. The pinball machine in his office kept people coming by -- "and helped keep me in the loop," Carney concedes. "He's temperamental and a bit nuts," says Andy Card, who was Bush's Transportation Secretary, "but he defines action. He gets things done." After Bush's '92 loss to Clinton, which Carney says he has "almost completely repressed," he was instrumental in the G.O.P.'s brilliant 1994 senatorial campaign effort, in which the party picked up eight seats. Carney was recruited by just about every '96 Republican presidential wannabe and chose Dole, who says that "having Dave helps me sleep at night."

Carney is an "Etch-A-Sketch" politician. He begins every campaign from scratch and views each as a personal test to do the job better than it was done before. Consider just some of the New Hampshire moves Carney is helping oversee, work Dole's rivals can only envy.

New Hampshire has 259 towns and wards; Dole has two volunteer co-chairmen in almost all of them already. "Dole had only 20 regional chairmen statewide in '88," says Carney. "We'll have 500 people. Those are vested folks. They see their own reputations on the line, so they work hard." To goad their efforts, each chairman has been given a vote goal. Over the next seven months, their performance will be measured periodically and made known to their colleagues. "Politics is the state sport," Carney explains, "so competition is a powerful incentive."

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