By Garrett Donais, Guest Columnist
Residents of New Hampshire often say; “I haven’t made up my mind yet I’ve only met them twice,” about the presidential candidates, with a laugh. This, though, is an accurate statement for many New Hampshirites. With the unique spotlight on us for being the “first in the nation primary” every four years, it pushes every candidate to stop in at least once a month during election season. Over the course of winter break, I saw eight candidates, six in-person and two over Skype. I even got to personally interact with three of them.
Within my first day of being back from break on a whim, I decided to go see four candidates at a mental health town hall. Former governors Bill Weld (R-MA) and Deval Patrick (D-MA) were there in person. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and former Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL) Skyped in. This was not the first time I had heard Tulsi speak, as I had just seen her a month earlier at a town hall she hosted. One thing you never realize seeing these candidates on TV or in print media is just how tall some of them are. Bill Weld towered over the moderators at the event I attended. It was interesting hearing those candidates talk about an issue, mental health, that is rarely mentioned on the campaign trail or presidential debates.
Next was seeing former Vice President Joe Biden. Only in New Hampshire will seventy-five people drive out in a blizzard to see a candidate. The room was packed, but I got there early enough to be seated directly behind where Biden would be speaking. Again, TV and print media distort your image of a candidate, but this time, I was surprised by just how skinny Biden is. At the end of the event, I got to talk with Joe and was able to get a selfie with him.
Now the Yang Gang. I signed up to see Andrew Yang with my dad, a staunch Reagan Republican, knowing he was going only because it was being held at a local brewery. Yang was a very charismatic speaker and painted out his vision for America. At his event, there were even free copies of his books, and I was able to grab one and have him sign it before I got a picture with him.
One of the most eloquent speakers has already dropped out of the race, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). He never minced his words and thoughtfully spoke his mind. His main message was his goal of encouraging Americans to simply be Americans again. He hopes that we stop worrying about how we are different and start focusing on what brings us together. When Booker dropped out, he said he plans on running for the re-election in the Senate.
The last candidate was Pete Buttigieg. Overall Pete was the best speaker in person. He remained on topic without going into too much detail when answering questions. Buttigieg’s event was by far the most popular with lines wrapping around the building to see the young mayor. It really reflected what the yard signs across the state were telling me. Pete was the front runner in New Hampshire. In more recent polls this is no longer the case but there are still plenty of Pete supporters across the state and there really is no way of knowing who is going to win until the primary day, February 11th.
Living in New Hampshire is such a unique experience and not one that is for everyone. The state was once voted the most patriotic state in the country and the most secular. “Live free or die” is our state’s mantra that carries over into many of our laws. Once you turn 18, you no longer need to wear a seatbelt or helmet. New Hampshire, despite everything else, is most known for politics. Politics in New Hampshire is a sport everyone plays, especially during the primary season for the Presidential election. With a population of just 1.3 million people with 94% of them being white, many critics have argued that this relatively homogenous state should not play such a big role in deciding the direction of our country. As the country’s demographics change, it will be interesting to see how our role evolves.
Still, New Hampshire continues to play an important role in determining the president. With a weak showing in New Hampshire, many candidates will take it as a loss and drop out while upstart candidates who exceed expectations can eventually go on to win their respective nominations.