Some might say it's George W. Bush. Others, Dick Cheney. Some might point to financial mavens like Warren Buffett, Donald Trump, or Rupert Murdoch. Yet others to those like Bill Gates.
But who is really the most powerful man in America? Would you believe New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner?
That's the reaction of many people outside of New Hampshire when they hear his name.
But what is it that makes Bill Gardner such a powerful person once every four years? It's quite simple, really: he sets the date for the New Hampshire Primary.
He's the seemingly always blushing guy who sits in a tiny, paper-messy, barren-walled office in a small corner of the State House. He's a wide-eyed, aw-shucks guy who loves raising chickens and, at 58, playing basketball with his brothers and watching the Patriots and Red Sox. At first, he comes across as a grown up Opie Taylor -- "never a tough guy," according to his thumbnail in the 1966 Bishop Bradley High School yearbook.
Well, he may not look tough. But when it comes to the New Hampshire primary, America, don't mess with Bill.
Gardner has those who would be President, their high-paid consultants, network executives and nationally-known political writers and pundits hanging on his every utterance, as rambling and imprecise as they sometimes can be.
But Gardner says nothing he does is more important than protecting the "tradition" of the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. As Secretary of State since 1976, he has stared down powerful political party leaders and legislatures and governors in other states who have been determined to end the first-by-a-week tradition and grab the national spotlight for themselves.
Does he bask in the limelight he finds himself in every four years? Not from what we've seen up here. And that makes him very different from many public servants.
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