MANCHESTER, N.H.—On size alone, it’s easy to take the state of New Hampshire for granted, but the Granite State takes its role in the general election proceedings very seriously
The small New England state’s four electoral votes seem to be perpetually in play every election cycle, thanks in large part to an informed voters determined to cast their ballot the right way. This cycle is no different as both major party candidates vying for the presidency have their eyes set on those four electoral votes.
On Saturday, the Clinton campaign made their presence felt mightily in the state’s largest city, Manchester, for a rally featuring VP candidate Tim Kaine and a hearty day of canvassing in the Queen City.
I had the opportunity to see, hear, and experience the campaign in full action in all of its sweltering summer action.
Walking amongst the rhododendrons and tall oaks dotting the campus grounds, all seemed quiet at Saint Anselm College, aside from the football team digging in for the morning session of what almost certainly is a two-a-day practice during training camp.
In just under an hour, the quiet brick-faced campus went from serene and silent to the bombast of the day’s whistle stop with Kaine. In what felt like an absolute instant, the campus, dotted along Manchester’s winding back roads, arose from its summertime slumber and into full-on campaign mode.
As the morning started in Davison Hall, the school’s dining hall adorned with vaulted wood ceilings and trusses made of iron and wood, an overall feeling of earnest enthusiasm from the parade of event support speeches from Governor Maggie Hassan through Senator Jeanne Shaheen. You could just feel it, the politicians certainly didn’t get into politics to liven their brand or tout a next project, for them, public service is the name of the game.
Take New Hampshire state representative Lou D’Allessandro for the state’s 20th district, as a prime example. The 78-year-old, savvy veteran politician had the political vim and vigor of a candidate much younger than his age would suggest, but could tell stories of his hardscrabble upbringing to a captive audience with the greatest of ease.
Behind a podium, D’Allesdandro sounds like the Granite State’s version of Joe Biden, but influenced by Sunday night dinners with Italian grandparents in South Boston as opposed Irish Catholicism in Scranton. His sincerity and energy were palpable throughout his quick five or so minute speech as he entered and exited to resounding “Lou” chants, similar to those once experienced by former Boston Red Sox utility infielder Lou Merloni.
D’Allesandro even dubbed Donald Trump the “King of Debt” during his remarks to a decidedly pro-Clinton/Kaine crowd. The nickname definitely delighted the crowd inside Davison Hall as things ramped up for the day’s headliner.
A New Hampshire crowd brings a high volume of energy to events big and small throughout the state and Saturday morning’s had that on full display Saturday morning.
As Shaheen wondered aloud about what’s exactly hiding in the as-yet-to-be-released tax returns of Donald J. Trump, the question, likely written to be rhetorical, fielded an answer from the crowd.
“The truth,” boomed a male voice from the crowd immediately after Shaheen’s query. But something striking about this crowd is how definitively old it felt.
Older voters tend to go the these events anyway, but the handful of younger voters in the Manchester audience were pretty engaged in Kaine’s rhetoric.
Even the mere mention of Trump’s name elicited vociferous boos from the crowd throughout the day’s proceedings. As the rally kept going, that certainly wasn’t going to change in front of a New Hampshire crowd.
As Kaine took the stage in Manchester around 1:00, the beaming thoughtfulness that the Virginia senator is known for brightly shone through. Seriously, the man speaks like he’s talking directly to each person in the crowd at the same time; it’s an uncanny oratorical gift to make everyone in the audience feel personally included in his remarks.
How very 2016 is it that a genuine sense of sincerity feels fabricated and manufactured?
How did we get to this point where trusting something or someone as genuine just doesn’t add up?
Kaine behind a podium feels less like a lecture and more like dinner table conversation. The man has an internal rolodex of quotes to use ranging from Maya Angelou to Thomas Jefferson.
It isn’t some Al Gore uber-intellectual showoff sounding thing, but just an overall natural, normal thing. Most VP Candidates tend to be attack dogs, but maybe the right guy to combat the doom and gloom of Trumpism is Sincere Tim.
Kaine’s rhetoric was then pointed squarely at Trump including his already patented device of comparing and contrasting his running mate, Clinton, and Trump as ‘You’re Hired, versus, You’re Fired’ presidential candidates.
The Saturday afternoon speech boasted the campaign’s jobs plan that includes the most comprehensive expansion of American work since World War II. Kaine even cited a Moody’s report stating the Clinton-Kaine plan will create ten million jobs in the first term if enacted.
The same report stated Trump’s would trigger an almost-certain recession. Campaigning 101, of course always has announcing stats that work in your on the stump as part of its syllabus.
The talk of the economy also touched on education and the need for schools to be well-funded and well-prepared to produce the next generations of the workforce. At most democratic rallies, it’s an applause line, but one well-articulated by Kaine citing that it’s easier to build a child, than it is to fix an adult.
The battle lines between the candidates vying for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were clearly marked.
“The Republican National Committee was a guided tour of the mind of Donald J. Trump,” Kaine said. “That’s a very frightening place to be.”
As Kaine’s remarks closed, and Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blared on the speakers in the dining hall, the day’s work was really just beginning for Granite State democrats, as a hearty day of campaign ground game exercises in the summer haze and humidity lay ahead.
As the hands of time drew closer and closer to the afternoon hours, the Hillary for New Hampshire office on hustling and bustling Elm Street in Manchester began to whirr with the excitement of the day’s rounds of canvassing. Leading the charge for volunteers, was Ryan Richman, a high school social studies teacher, and New Hampshire resident since his college days.
In a state as small in size as New Hampshire is, talking to one’s neighbors isn’t so uncommon, even if in 2016 it has marginally become something of a bygone pastime. Richman knows how simple word of mouth means so much for candidates campaigning there.
“That face-to-face conversation aspect of campaigning is so vital in New Hampshire,” Richman said. “I see it as so important to get out there and talk to voters and talk to my neighbors and that’s why it’s such a super active environment here. We saw it in the primary too with Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, but it’s the big show now. It’s exciting and very busy. There’s always a lot of work to do.”
For Richman, the notion that supporters of Clinton/Kaine ticket skew towards an older more established voting bloc, is one he’d like to see disabused. The Elm Street office is the biggest example of this as many of the volunteers there are young—including some who are still in the shallow end of high school, let alone even being chronologically eligible to vote.
With this, Richman, a local high school social studies teacher when not in campaign mode, isn’t a fan of the similar notion that young voters don’t care and simply can’t be bothered with the electoral process. But, like anything with young people, he thinks it’s something the age group can grow into.
“I think a lot of young people are looking for that investment in society and they haven’t quite figured out how our system really works and they’re still really looking for their voice,” Richman said. They struggle to find it, but they eventually find it and that’s why you see an escalation in voter turnout. It’s a part of that process of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up or when you change your major two or three times, I think finding your political voices goes with that.”
As the afternoon wore on in the office people kept coming in and out of its doors to canvass, get information, and bumper stickers; the state’s operation looked alive and well. The question remains how well that operation feels heading towards Election Day.
If Richman and his band of volunteers have anything to do with it, networks will be coloring in the state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” blue that evening.
Leaving Manchester can involve scenic highways and byways and an even more scenic drive down US Route 3. These roads take you through pine tree-lined towns like Bedford, Merrimack, and Nashua, not exactly bustling metropolises.
As I drove down the twisty roads out of the Queen City, I couldn’t help but see the visual symphony of campaign signs like Granite State beacons beside the road. Every front yard seemed to have a local campaign sign proudly displayed out front.
This made me fully realize about the plugged-in and informed nature of New Hampshire voters that Rich Richman had expressed to me earlier in the afternoon. This state cares about this stuff—enough to put these signs out front like a political badge of honor.
Don’t let the size of New Hampshire fool you—their electoral passion and intelligence makes up for what land mass doesn’t.