Which Democratic presidential candidate will be the first on the scene: John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton?

Today Wausau Paper announced it was closing its paper mill in Groveton, New Hampshire, and laying off about 300 workers in the process. According to Wausau, while net sales increased company-wide to a record $319 million, its “printing and writing” division lost money. Last year the division made $1.1 million; this year it lost $1.3 million. Ergo, they are closing the mill on December 31, 2007.

Happy New Year, workers of Wausau!

Wausau is not by any means the first paper mill to close in New Hampshire. In 2001, while most Americans were still shell-shocked over the terrorist attack of 9/11, people in New Hampshire were dealing with a second blow: the Pulp and Paper Mill of America in Berlin, NH, closed down, laying off 800 employees. In typical New Hampshire fashion, a volunteer effort of individual and corporate contributions helped to soften the impact, providing financial and emotional support to displaced employees.

(For information about the state’s response to the Wausau closing, click here.)

The news from Wausau comes in the middle of a Democratic presidential primary trail that has quickly gone cold and boring. Most of us in New Hampshire are already planning our Hillary Clinton victory parties. Her main adversaries — Edwards and Obama — can barely muster a round of buckshot in her direction, much less throw the Molotov cocktail they need to stir things up around here.

But thanks to Wausau, an opportunity is emerging. Picture the scene in Groveton, New Hampshire:

We stand in front of a dark, brooding building, an empty paper mill, a remnant of a dying manufacturing economy. The front doors are boarded up. The frosted windows are dark. It is mid-January, the arctic winds are howling and the snow is piling up higher than John Edwards’ hair. Small groups of men and women, penniless and fearful, huddle around blackened oil cans from which cold fires burn, looking for warmth. . .and hope.

Emerging out of the wintry stillness comes someone who offers kind words, a warm hand, a nod of understanding and compassion, a conviction that the future will be better. The cameras roll. The microphones capture every breathless word. The inconsolable are consoled.

Who is it? Edwards? Obama? Clinton?

To paraphrase Peter Klappert:

                                            –Outbursts of
Orchids emblossom and cascade
From the neck of America’s finest champagne,
We are all caught up in a masquerade,
It’s in moments like these that presidents get made.

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