now, there was a multi-candidate race among Republicans in the New
Hampshire primary. Then, as now, two of them appeared to be in a
tight race for the top spot, with the rest of the pack far behind
in the polls. A few days before the primary, Reagan, the hero of
the party's conservative ranks, and George Bush, winner of the Iowa
caucus, were scheduled to meet in a one-on-one debate sponsored
by the Nashua Telegraph. When the Federal Elections Commission ruled
the newspaper couldn't sponsor the debate without including the
other candidates, the Reagan campaign offered to pay for the event.
was campaigning in South Carolina, but candidates Bob Dole, Phil
Crane, Howard Baker and John Anderson showed up on stage at Nashua
High School, claiming the right to participate in the event. Reagan
went to the mike and began to argue for their inclusion when the
moderator ruled him out of order. When Reagan continued speaking,
Breen instructed Molloy to turn off the microphone.
total chaos," said Molloy, with Reagan continuing to talk
and people in the audience shouting their opinions of Breen's effort
to silence the former California governor. Eventually, order was
restored, the other candidates left, and the two-way debate took
place. But the confrontation over the microphone became the big
remembered anything that was said in the debate," said
Molloy, himself included.
With the possible
exception of reporters covering the campaigns on a daily basis,
Molloy sees and hears more candidates more often than anyone. But
he is busy tending to the sound, lighting and visual effects - not
the content of the speeches or the debating points.
they get up to the microphone to speak, my job is to make sure something
comes out," he said. "After that, they're on their
The lasting image
of Reagan reminding the moderator who was paying for the microphone
helped reinforce the candidate's reputation for toughness and a
willingness to take a stand. "It showed he had some moxie,
and I think people liked that," said Molloy. Reagan won
the primary in a landslide a few days later and the rest, including
Molloy's microphone, is history.
Bill Clinton became president, Mrs. Reagan announced she wanted
to have an exhibit called 'Our 42 Presidents," or something
like that. She was looking for artifacts of each of the presidents."
So the microphone, on loan from Molloy, is on display at the Reagan
Library in California, in a section on the New Hampshire Primary.
He will not tell
who he favors in the current primary. "Whichever one spends
the most money with me," he laughed.
He has worked
for presidential hopefuls of both major parties over the last seven
New Hampshire primary campaigns, but he remembers them more for
their personality traits than their political platforms.
was a very funny guy," he said, recalling witticisms he
would hear from the former Sentate majority leader and 1996 Republican
nominee. "I think if (his advisers) let him be himself instead
of handling him, he would have been better off." Michael
Dukakis, the Democratic nominee in 1998, was often concerned about
the height of the lectern. About an hour before a speaking engagement
at the Sheraton in Bedford, Molloy recalled, the height-challenged
Massachusetts governor arrived to check out the platform.
up or get it (the lectern) out!" he demanded. The problem
was solved by placing a glass rack behind the lectern for Dukakis
to stand on.
During this primary
season, Molloy has done more work for the Bush campaign than any
other. "I've never seen anything like the crowds he gets,"
said Molloy. "It's like they've come out to see a movie
star." He also says Bush's advance team is the best he's
seen in his 24 years of work with political campaigns.
he said, holding up several pages of a fax from the Bush campaign.
"They tell you exactly where they're going to be and what
their needs are." The Gore campaign, on the other hand,
"is apt to waste a lot of your time over two or three days
looking at different sites. Then they'll call the next day and say
they've changed their mind."
As busy as he
is in the primary season, Molloy can afford to be selective about
what jobs he'll take, particularly at the last minute.
While Molloy spends
most of his time at the job sites, his wife, Lorene, runs the office.
Demand for the company's services comes from a variety of sources,
including the TV networks seeking satellite feeds from campaign
events. The company also was hired by C-Span for its telecast of
the recent memorial service in Manchester for Union Leader publisher
Nackey Loeb. "C-Span called and said unless we provided
the lighting, they weren't going to do it. I said to Lorene, 'Gee,
that's not much pressure, is it?"
his own business in the mid-1970s, Molloy was technical director
for Ralph Gottlieb, then owner of WKBR and WZID in Manchester and
several other New Hampshire radio stations. It was at WKBR that
he met a relatively obscure former governor of Georgia named Jimmy
Kelly brought him over to the station," said Molloy, recalling
the late Manchester advertising executive and Democratic Party activist.
"I said, 'Hello, pleased to meet you,' and went back to
work. I really didn't think anything of it."
Kelly, he said,
was one of the people who helped the future president gain recognition
in the Granite State. "She kept bringing 'Jimmy Who?' around
until people knew who the hell he was."
the old WKBR building by the Amoskeag Bridge a few years ago and
renovated it, turning it into his own recording studio. Rehabbing
buildings is a hobby, he said. "Give me a hammer and some
nails and I'm like a kid in a sand box."
At the height
of the primary season, though, Molloy has little time for hobbies.
He ahd his five-member crew are busy at campaign events, installing
microphones and speakers, putting up "pipe and drape"
backdrops, setting up the lighting, cameras and TV monitors.
It is the same
range of services he provides for his other clients, including corporations
and municipalities. He is often busy at town meeting time, when
overflow crowds require closed-circuit telecasts for those unable
to get into a town hall meeting room or school auditorium.
access to the building in time to set up is a problem, Molloy said.
He recalled a school district meeting in Bedford a few years ago
when the question of building a local high school was on the agenda.
A large crowd was expected, and video monitors and extra microphones
would be need to allow citizens to participate from several locations
within the building.
had an in-house cable system, but it didn't work," Molloy
said. "We basically had to wire the whole school building
that day." Since it was a school day, Molloy and his crew
normally would not have had a chance to do their wiring and set-up
work until late in the day.
there was a snowstorm, and they called off school that day, though
they still had the meeting that night. That meant we had all day
to wire the building. So there is a God, you see," he added
with a smile.
Molloy makes a
point of not letting his seasonal political work take precedence
over the needs of his year-round clients. One corporate client,
he said, asked him how he was able to respond so quickly to a request
for service, given all the political activity that was going on.
him, 'You guys are my bread and butter. These guys go away in a
couple of weeks.'" The primary creates "a nice
blip on the charts," he said, "but my regular clients
Still, he enjoys
the extra excitement every few years. "It's not something
you'd want to do 365 days a year, but it's nice to have the New
Hampshire primary every four years. Just about the time you feel
you've had enough of (the campaigns), they go away."
with permission of N.H. Business Review