Reflections

Now that I have been home for a few days, I have had some time to look back on my 3 weeks in New Hampshire and what I learned. The greatest thing I took away from my experience interning was that everyone does everything for the common cause of creating a better America.  By that, I mean regardless of one’s ranking, no one was too good to make the coffee, do hours of phone banking, or tedious tasks that all help to make the campaign run smoother.  The reason for this was that we all believe in President Obama’s continuation as president and all the work we put into the campaign, big or small, brings us closer to that goal.  The long days and late nights put in by the dedicated people of Obama for America was nothing but admirable.  The dedication to and belief in the platforms of President Obama and what he can do to better this country is what fuels them to continue putting in their hard work.  Not only was the staffs’ hard work something to witness, but that of the community volunteers was just as great.  People from the community would open their homes to talk about President Obama’s causes and to do phone banking for hours.  Many of these people were very busy outside of their volunteer work, but still made time to sit down and call on their fellow neighbors to lend their support as well.  Everyone who lent a helping hand did so with such dedication and vigor and I was very inspired. I plan on getting involved with the campaign in New York and to do as much as I can to aid in the reelection of President Obama.

With all of that written, I will end with this, stand up and promote for what you believe, especially when it comes to politics because your vote, voice, and opinions matter.

By the Numbers

Wondering what we did and saw during our three-week stay in New Hampshire? Here is an accounting:

720 volunteer hours for political candidates/organizations

8 presidential candidates seen, some more than once (Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Fred Karger, and some guy dressed in an Uncle Sam outfit)

2 former presidential candidates seen (Howard Dean and Tim Pawlenty)

1 future presidential candidate seen? (Cory Booker)

10 candidate campaign events (town halls, rallies, etc.) attended

6750 phone calls made to New Hampshire voters

700 lawn signs made

5 sign waves

2 offices decorated

1 parade marched in

250 (approx.) pieces of political swag collected

1 campaign quit

2519 miles driven in our two rental vehicles

17 trips to Concord

18 New Hampshire towns visited

2 people who were not friendly out of all of the many people we met in New Hampshire

7 newspaper stories/TV shows/radio shows appeared in/on

14 guest speakers

2 dinners with Arnie Arnesen!!

1¾ hours spent with Secretary of State Bill Gardner

6 visits to St. Anselm College

1 big Thank You to Drew Cyr (St. A’s senior) for getting us great seats at the Huntsman-Gingrich debate

55 blog posts (and counting)

142 tweets (@UnionNHprimary)

37 Twitter followers

97 text messages sent by Zoe Oxley

0 text messages ever sent by Zoe Oxley before this mini-term

4th place runner in the 3-mile Santa Shuffle (Ian Schwartz)

505th place runner in the Santa Shuffle (Zoe Oxley)

1313 total finishers of the Santa Shuffle

27 tasty meals consumed at the Red Arrow Diner

48 games bowled at Spare Time

What Lawn Signs Tell Us

As I was driving home yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the proliferation of campaign lawn signs. I saw a few (surprisingly few, I thought at the time) on my drive to Manchester three weeks ago. Most of those were Mitt Romney signs, with a few Ron Paul ones sprinkled in.

Much has happened since late November, and the changes in lawn signage reflect that. Campaigning swung into high gear, hence the much larger number of signs. Even though Romney is still leading in the New Hampshire polls, he is not leading in the lawn sign race (at least on the route between Manchester and Keene). I saw as many, if not more, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich signs. And more Ron Paul signs have sprouted up. All three of these candidates gained more public support in the past few weeks. Befitting their low standing in the polls, signs for the two Ricks (Santorum and Perry) were few and far between. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I saw a Perry sign yesterday.

And then there’s the 4 x 8 signs. Ian Schwartz has not been the only person putting these up around the Granite State. Plenty of supporters for Romney, Huntsman, and Paul have as well. I am guessing that Perry’s, Santorum’s and Gingrich’s campaigns do not have any 4 x 8s, as I didn’t see any for these candidates. Or, perhaps they are saving them for a last minute 4 x 8 blitz?

Are you wondering about Michele Bachmann? I never did see a lawn sign for her. Not surprising that, given that she is essentially not campaigning in the state.

Romney for President

Leaving New Hampshire has definitely been a bittersweet experience. I am excited to finally be home with family and friends for the holidays, but I feel as if I have left another family behind – my family at Romney for President, Inc. I walked into this experience having no idea what to expect and not knowing much about all of the candidates and what New Hampshire politics was really like. I can honestly say that I have learned more than I ever anticipated and enjoyed all of the candidate events, making new friends, and finding myself as part of a new family.
The first day at Romney HQ, everyone said there was nothing like working on a campaign. Now I fully understand what they mean. While there is serious work to get done, there is also time for fun and jokes. The hours sacrificed sleeping are made up for by the feeling of personal accomplishment, or hours spent with Mitt Romney himself. Everyone working, interning, and volunteering at the office are there for one reason, and that is to get Mitt to the White House, and not too long after arriving at HQ, I felt that I was there for the same reason.
I supported Mitt Romney before arriving to Manchester, New Hampshire, and now I not only support him, but I am emotionally invested in his campaign. The energy, excitement, and passion is something I have never felt before for a candidate. I find myself constantly talking about the work that I have done and about Mitt Romney. With only 16 days until the Iowa caucus, and 23 days until the New Hampshire primary, I feel that this is the least that I can do if I can’t be up in Manchester. As a citizen and a voter, I now feel a true sense of responsibility when it comes to elections – a feeling that can only come about after spending time in New Hampshire and with the candidates themselves.

Goodbye New Hampshire

The three weeks in New Hampshire flew by! As excited as I was to go home and see my family, I was also really sad to be leaving my Romney family behind. When I arrived in New Hampshire I was excited to work on a campaign and learn about the New Hampshire Primary but I was not emotionally invested in the primary. Like the majority of the rest of the country I was feeling apathetic about politics. The excitement of the 2008 campaign (I was a big Hillary girl) was long gone and Obama and his message of “Hope” and “Change” has left many people even more let down and disappointed. I have found myself in this primary season not an Obama fan but not very excited about the other republican prospects. I thought my energy, hope and excitement was left behind with the disappointment of Hillary’s loss and Obama’s difficult first four years. I did not think anything could change that, especially a republican primary that no one was very excited about. However, I was very wrong. My three weeks in New Hampshire learning more about Romney, meeting him in person, and spending over 75 hours campaigning for him, I found myself a Romney fanatic! I feel emotionally invested in his campaign just as I did in Hillary’s in 2008. I am now hopeful that this energy and excitement is contagious. I encourage more people who are feeling apathetic about the primary season to really get to know the candidates and volunteer on campaigns and even to come to New Hampshire before January 10th. There is nowhere like New Hampshire and I was shocked by the political culture and accessibility to candidates. If you are feeling a little down about the primaries and upcoming election book your trip to New Hampshire before January 10th and try to go to as many events and meet as many candidates as possible and you will certainly change your mind!

We All Need Retail Politics

Retail politics. It’s what New Hampshire is famous for. Presidential candidates hold countless public sessions in the state. Citizens have many opportunities to meet the candidates, to ask them questions, and to (try to) hold candidates accountable for answering the questions. Such candidate-voter dynamics are one of the main justifications for New Hampshire holding the first primary in the nation. New Hampshire deserves to be first, the argument goes, because voters here vet the candidates thoroughly. Or, as I’ve heard Jon Huntsman say a few times, “New Hampshire provides a window through which the rest of the nation can see, analyze, and evaluate the candidates.”

Retail politics is on the decline here in the Granite State. When we first arrived, I found myself wondering whether New Hampshire’s first in the nation status would, as a result, be in serious jeopardy. Now I realize that I was thinking about this quite the wrong way around. Rather than think about New Hampshire losing the first primary, I am now wondering what we can do to bring retail politics back to New Hampshire…and spread this type of campaigning to the rest of the nation.

Admittedly, it is hard to envision presidential candidates engaging in more personal, one-on-one campaigning, with lots of small events popping up throughout the country. Running for president is moving in the opposite direction. Candidates run national campaigns, prioritizing TV ads and media appearances over events with voters. One current front-runner has a miniscule field organization. News media cover hype and conflict over substance and thoughtful debate.

Getting to my (utopian?) dream of much more retail politicking would not be easy, nor is the route obvious. Some reforms to the parties’ nomination processes would likely be required, such as moving away from a frontloaded calendar. A complete and effective public financing system would help. Voter demands for candidates to hold town hall-style question and answer events would be nice, as would incentives for journalists to cover elections more seriously (now I’m really having a utopian dream…). A brave candidate who engages in nation-wide retail politics AND wins his or her party’s nomination might be necessary. That would get the attention of other candidates, encouraging more to try the same approach in later years.

Altering presidential campaign dynamics would be a tall order indeed. Yet, after spending a few weeks in New Hampshire, it is hard to not conclude the following: retail politics can significantly strengthen electoral democracy.

I’ll keep on dreaming.

The Union Army Marches On

After 19 days of active duty the Union Army is being called back to home base. When we first arrived at Huntsman HQ we nearly doubled the field staff. Three weeks later, there are plenty of volunteers from all across our nation ready to take our spots. That didn’t stop staff from offering some condolences though: “It’s a sad day in the JH Family” or “The Union Army marches on.” Needless to say, we’re more than a little upset about leaving too.

We’ve managed to spread the Governor’s message to nearly 5,000 New Hampshire homes; we helped double the number of calls the field staff could make on a daily basis -and just worked to make it easier for them to do their jobs. And we put together hundreds and hundreds of lawn signs. The UnionNHPrimary Twitter became a virtual Huntsmania account and we helped popularize such hashtag favorites as #JointheHunt and #WeAreThe13percent. As a matter of fact, when we arrived in Manchester 19 days ago, Huntsman was hovering around 8-9% in the polls. Today, he is at 13%, knocking off Ron Paul, and giving the top two candidates a solid challenge. Coincidence? Hardly.

The point is, we made a difference at the Huntsman Camp. While we probably won’t miss getting hung up on 200 times a day, we most certainly will miss walking into the office to hear “Hello Union Army.”

…That is until 2016 when the Army will most certainly invade again.

The Last Phone Bank

Tonight, Elite and myself traveled north of our regional OFA encampment in Concord and headed to Franklin. One would think that both New Hampshirites and campaign volunteers such as ourselves would be tired of phonecalls by now, but there is no rest for the weary on the campaign trail.

Throughout the past few weeks on the ground in New Hampshire, I have grappled with how effective phonebanking is at interacting with voters. Obviously, a campaign can call a great volume of people in a short period of time. With today’s technology, however, more people have caller ID and less people have land-lines. I know when I see a “private caller” coming across the caller ID at my house, I normally do not pick up. (I would think most New Hampshire residents would have invested in caller ID by now to dodge the onslaught of political calls every four years). Therefore, it has become increasingly more difficult to connect with voters over the phone, as numerous means have been developed to avoid solicitors; political and otherwise. Upon the time when you do reach voters for their support, you will find people who berate you for wasting their time with political phone calls. As someone who does not particularly enjoy courtesy/political calls, I can understand where those unhappy people stand. But other times, the calls lead to great conversations where people will briefly discuss the issues and acknowledge the appreciation they have for what we are doing on the campaign. For every person who does not answer or hangs up, it is easy to be discouraged thinking that phonebanking does not make a difference. Once you reach someone who is cordial and engaged in the campaign, it justifies that the process is worth the while.

As we made our last calls tonight (over 100 for the hour that we called), Elite and I finished up reaching out to over 2,000 New Hampshirites located primarily within Merrimack County. Our Union group as a whole has made thousands of phone calls in New Hampshire (Professor Oxley may have calculated a solid estimate) and we each have left our marks on the primary. For a process that can seem unsatisfying, we surely can feel satisfied with our body of work on the ground in the Granite State.

An Ode to New Hampshire

I’m going native.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to get to know a number of New Hampshire state representatives (it’s so easy, there are 400 of them!). In the course of my conversations, I’ve found that many of them are not New Hampshire natives. They come here from other states, often when they get older. The same can be said with regards to many of our guest speakers (Arnie Arnesen, Tom Rath and Dean Spiliotes to name a few), and other New Hampshire politicos. Until recently, this pattern of migration was somewhat of a mystery. Why would anyone want to move to New Hampshrie, away from the comforts of civilization? Why would any political junkie want to leave the hustle and bustle of New York, or D.C, or Boston?

Like moths to a porch lamp, they come looking for political action. Every four years, this place becomes the center of the world, and it shows. People love to talk politics. Everyone is interested, everyone has an opinion. There are candidates to be met, questions to be raised and plenty of battles to be fought. I’ve only been here three weeks and I’ve begun to dream about politics.

Still, it goes beyond that. This is a small state, and the political sphere here is small. Rather than the distant professionalism of my politicians back in Boston, public servants here are much closer to a giant family. It is this sense of family, inextricably tied to the daily business of politics, that draws so many pols here. I can see how it appeals to them. I can see how it would appeal to me.

So while I’m not saying I’ll move to New Hampshire, I will say this. I have a different respect for the Granite state than I did before, a different view of it and its people. I’m thankful for my time here, and I hope to be back in the near future.

Good Eats

Almost every day for lunch, I have been heading to the Eagle St Delicatessen. I came to learn about it from recommendations of the staff at OFA and I am very glad that I looked into it. It’s a quaint little deli located down an ally off of N. Main St in Concord. It specializes in sandwiches and soups. When you walk in, you are enveloped by the smell of cookies and brownies. However, have no fear, the menu is large and in front so that you may decide on what you want without being too distracted. There is a ½ sandwich and cup of soup deal that is perfect for those stopping in on lunch break. It’s just enough food to fill you up without being stuffed and for a price that is very reasonable. Now back to the dessert. They leave the freshly baked brownies on the counter to lure chocolate loving customers like me over to buy them. They also have various cookies to choose from as well, if you’re looking to satiate that sweet tooth without going overboard.

The staff is very friendly and welcoming. The food is priced well and sized right, leaving you satisfied. The deli is definitely a representation of many of the NH residents that I have met; polite, kind, and welcoming. If it hasn’t already been implied, I would highly recommend this place for lunch. =D