Hostage Incident Not To Spur Major Changes In Security

Saturday, December 1st 2007, 4:53 pm
By: News On 6

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Little change in security is expected for presidential candidates and their New Hampshire campaign offices following a hostage incident at a Hillary Rodham Clinton office. A distraught man took Clinton staffers hostage in Rochester on Friday and surrendered to police hours later.

Though Clinton's campaign said it was taking unspecified security precautions, other campaigns and observers said Saturday it would be business as usual for the five weeks remaining until the January 8th primary.

Candidates who already travel with security, either Secret Service or private protection, will continue to do so, and the field offices scattered around the state will remain open to all and staffed mostly by volunteers, campaigns said.

``We always advise our staff to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings, but the kind of one-on-one contact that voters and campaigns have in New Hampshire is part of what makes the primary great, and we will continue to meet with voters in their towns and neighborhoods across the state,'' said Kate Bedingfield, spokeswoman for Democrat John Edwards.

Craig Stevens, spokesman for Republican Mitt Romney, said Romney remains committed to meeting voters one on one.

``He's done it for the past 11 months and he's going to keep on doing it right through Jan. 8,'' Stevens said.

Incidents probably are inevitable given the ``open door'' nature of New Hampshire politics, but they won't change it, said Mike Dennehy, national political director for Sen. John McCain's campaign.

``First of all, New Hampshire prides itself on the grassroots nature of the New Hampshire primary and the openness of the New Hampshire primary. An incident like this is not going to stop people in New Hampshire from continuing that tradition,'' Dennehy said.

Asked in Iowa whether the incident will change his security plan, Democratic candidate Chris Dodd said his campaign will discuss it but will be careful not to allow him to become constrained.

``I know full well, having spent years in public life, that there's always these possibilities of things occurring,'' Dodd said. ``Gratefully, nothing happened yesterday ... but I'd be reluctant about all of a sudden having policies here in terms of offices and so forth made less accessible to the public.''

One security expert was confident that campaigns have responded, or soon will, to the incident with extra staff training.

``It's not something they're going to want to broadcast, obviously, but I guarantee you steps already have been taken by a number of the campaigns to protect their staff members and to educate them to mitigate the risks,'' said Kevin Walker of security consultants Walker International in Manchester. ``Basically, more awareness for the staff.''

State troopers surrounded Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Saturday , as part of his endorsement by the New Hampshire Troopers Association.