Monday, January 7, 2008

1st In The Nation Primary: A Political Junkie's Dream Weekend

A former co-worker and friend who I'll refer to as J.J. drove to New Hampshire this past weekend to see first hand, the political circus that is the result of the state hosting the nation's first primary. Growing up in New Hampshire, I recall the insanity that surrounds this event and J.J.'s e-mail telling friends about her experience made me smile. I fondly recall running around to listen to countless stump speeches from campaigns past. So I asked J.J. if she wouldn't mind if I posted her email on my blog. What follows is J.J.'s e-mail to friends.

…It's Friday after the Iowa Caucus. The results have turned both races for a loop and New Hampshire has now become the center of the universe.

New Hampshire, the home of Lyndon LaRouche, Franklin Pierce and David Souter. I'm green with envy as every Iowan and New Hampshirite meets politicians as frequently as I meet drug dealers in Springfield. So I packed my bags and head north to see the circus that may only come once in a lifetime. Not since 1952 have we had an election where both party nominations were up for grabs. This was sure to be a political junkie's best fix.

I thought that everyone in Nashua/Manchester, NH was into politics. Why wouldn't they be? This is their time. It's like not being into the Oscars when you live in LA.

Apparently, the hotel check-in lady could have cared less. Wow… Did I drive two hours for a ho-hum weekend? Moving north on the Everett Turnpike, I quickly realized that no, she was just a dumb anomaly. If you drive down Elm Street in Manchester, you'll see campaign sign after sign after sign. There's not any empty spot. Mitt volunteers stood on the corner, screaming "Mitt! Mitt!", probably for hours on end.

My first three hours in Manchester, I made phone calls for the Giuliani campaign. "Hello, I'm with the Giuliani campaign. I was hoping to get your support this Tuesday."

This is the second call in ten minutes!"

Next call, "Hello, I'm with the Giuliani campaign. I was hoping to get your support this Tuesday."

"I'm voting for Osama."

"Okay then. Thanks for your time."

"Oh, I meant Obama."

"I figured that."

Next call, "Hello, I'm with the Giuliani campaign. I was hoping to get your support this Tuesday."

"I'm voting for McCain. Take me off your list!"

"Okay, I'll do that. Thanks for your time."

Next call, "Hello, I'm with the Giuliani campaign. I was hoping to get your support this Tuesday."

"Um, I dunno. I don't know who to vote for."

"Well, are there any questions I can answer? Can I give you some reasons why Giuliani would be a great president?"


"Okay, then. Thanks for your time. I hope we get your support Tuesday."

"Maybe. I doubt it."

Over 50% of my calls were voicemails and another 25% were disconnected services. If I was a New Hampshirite, I wouldn't answer my phone either. Down the street from the Giuliani headquarters, Clinton volunteers had began their chant. "Hillary! Hillary!"

Afterward, I attempted to make my way to the Giuliani debate rally but alas got very lost. So instead, I grabbed a bite to eat at a local dive. Guys inside complained about getting four phone calls in an hour, and I got a lot of glares as I sat there with my Team Rudy shirt on. The guy next to me was nice enough to say hello. He was pretty frustrated with the circus in town too.

I was back to my groupie days at the debate watching party. I stood for hours, watching a debate that I could be watching on the comfort of my couch just to see a glimpse of Rudy later. It was all worth it at the end. Giuliani graced us with his presence for over 5 minutes, waiving, talking about how great he is and shaking my hand on his way out. After hours of volunteering, watching debates and driving around, I head back to the hotel, only to find out my hotel was filled with Hillary supporters. I got worse looks from them with my Team Rudy shirt on than I did at the local dive.

The next morning, I made my way to the politician haven, The Merrimack Restaurant, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mike Gravel, who was scheduled to eat breakfast there. I sat at the counter on the lookout. It took me a half hour to realize that the Maryland Governor was having breakfast near me. No one seemed to care. No one even knew his name. Mike Gravel walked in right on time. No one seemed to care. I'm not even sure anyone knew. Such is the life of a 3rd tier candidate. I didn't take any photos… no one was even shaking his hand… poor fellow.

I headed off to the Romney town hall. My great sense of direction led me to the wrong high school. I ended up at the Clinton Rally 1 hour before it started and it was already packed. I had no chance of getting in. But I did get a great seat at the Romney event, second row, right in front of him. Too bad the two folks next to me and I weren't fans. We were probably the only ones not clapping, which, couldn't have made him happy that we were right there, but better there than on camera.

Unfortunately, since Romney was almost a half hour late, I couldn't make it to Derry to see Obama. Thus, ended my weekend as a political groupie, but the trip was worth the fix. Too bad this is only once every four years.

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