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CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK

Bit of McCain spontaneity resurfaces

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- John McCain's town meeting at the Gilford, N.H., fire station yesterday morning offered more proof that the onetime maverick is now suffering the fate of other senators who have run for president. The lion's share of his remarks were devoted to explaining intricate details of the immigration bill and the Iraq troop "surge," punctuated by several testy defenses of the legislative process.

"Do I think it's perfect? No," McCain said of the immigration bill, the air whistling through his clenched teeth. "May I remind you that the Democrats are in the majority in both houses, and so we have to work with them?"

But during the question-and-answer period, some of the old spontaneous McCain re emerged. The biggest surprise was a suddenly passionate denunciation of the practice of presidents filling their Cabinets with members of their own party.

"In my opinion, the last president of the United States who went out and got the best and brightest was John F. Kennedy," McCain thundered, seemingly unaware that author David Halberstam had used the term "best and brightest" to ridicule the Kennedy team. "I will go out and get the best people regardless of party affiliation."

The place most in need of such a meritocratic appointee? The Pentagon, McCain declared, bemoaning the billions of dollars wasted on poorly functioning or obsolete weapons systems.

Ballgame won contest
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Television ratings made available to the Globe show that there was only one true contest Sunday night, and it wasn't the Democratic presidential debate.

Not surprising to anyone from the region, viewership of the Yankees-Red Sox game on ESPN was more than 10 times larger than the audience viewing the debate televised on a local New Hampshire TV station and CNN.

Inside the Boston TV market, which covers most of the New Hampshire, 68,000 people caught the debate on either WMUR or CNN, while 779,000 people in the market watched the game, according to Nielsen Media Research .

JAMES PINDELL

Clinton makes strides
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A new poll of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire suggests that Hillary Clinton, New York senator, is far ahead of the field and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico also is picking up support.

The WBZ/Franklin Pierce College poll indicates Clinton is extending her lead to 22 percentage points over Senator Barack Obama of Illinois . In the previous poll by the same outfit in March, Clinton held a 7-point lead.

The poll questioned 424 likely Democratic primary voters Monday, the day after the Democrats' debate in Manchester. The margin of error was 4.8 percent.

JAMES PINDELL

Mass. endorsements
Hillary Clinton landed another round of endorsements in Massachusetts yesterday, the support of Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral and 11 state legislators.

"I'm supporting Hillary Clinton because I want what's best for the country," Cabral, a Democrat, said in a statement. "She's intelligent, confident, and tested. Her grasp of foreign and domestic policy issues is extraordinary, and she had the respect of leaders around the globe. "

ANDREW RYAN

More on the GOP debate:
Editorial and opinion:
 GLOBE EDITORIAL: The Republican big tent
 DERRICK Z. JACKSON: A debate goes nuclear
 SCOT LEHIGH: Essential qualities
 JOAN VENNOCHI: On principles, McCain
 JEFF JACOBY: A study in contrasts
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