The Debate

The Granite State

The energy surrounding the primary in New Hampshire is extraordinary. But is the race over already?

I’ll be updating regularly over the next 24 hours or so, but it’s already clear in the few hours I’ve been in the state that the extraordinary energy that typically marks  the New Hampshire primary is still very much alive, however much a foregone conclusion some see the race.

On my first trip here several years back, as a volunteer for a campaign, I was amazed by the dedication of the volunteers that flock here ahead of the campaign. People had come from across the country, many students, but also many older volunteers who had used some of the precious little holiday they get to volunteer for their chosen candidate – manning phone banks or braving subzero temperatures to deliver leaflets or plant signs.

Some volunteers were sharing basement floors with seven or eight other volunteers for a week or more, heads typically hitting sleeping bags well after midnight only to be woken four or five hours later to start another pizza and donut-fuelled day. Whose basement floors were they sleeping on? The very dedicated home state volunteers that the presidential primary candidates have been courting for months.

While candidates in some of the later voting states rely heavily on TV ad buys, in New Hampshire it’s little exaggeration to say that a voter will expect to have met the candidate in person before even considering voting for them. One New Hampshirite told me that within an hour of her first pick dropping out, three other candidates had been on the phone personally asking her to back them.

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Speaking of phone calls, the past two weeks have apparently seen a barrage of robo calls at people’s homes and on their cell phones, with some locals saying they’ve received three calls today from some candidates urging them to go out and vote tomorrow. Such calls are unlikely to sway many at this point in the game. The idea is presumably to make sure that people don’t forget to turn out. It’s hard, though, to see with the swamping of TV commercial slots with final pleas from candidates how anyone could forget.