In the week leading up to the presidential primaries, the city of Manchester, New Hampshire was flooded with visitors and volunteers arriving from all parts of the country. From California to Florida, voters make the effort to visit the small, northeastern city to engage in the political festivities. The candidates take advantage of the influx of visitors to share their ideas and plans, each one of them hoping to convince voters that they are the best fit for President of the United States.
Although candidates travel all over the country to campaign, New Hampshire is unique in that it provides voters with a very personal experience. Through relatively small town hall forums, rallies, and other campaigning events, voters have an opportunity to interact with candidates, allowing them to asses not only the candidate’s policies and future plans but also their character and demeanor.
Dick Bemus from eastern Maryland came to New Hampshire with his wife and a group of friends precisely for this personal, political experience. “We heard that coming here for the primary weekend is a great experience. Going around to various venues, learning about the candidates. We thought it would be a lot of fun, and a lot of knowledge gaining,” said Bemus.
Like Bemus, some undecided Democratic voters have traveled to New Hampshire to narrow down their options. For them, this experience of coming to New Hampshire and being able to follow each campaign both on and off stage allows them to get to know the candidates as people, rather than just political figures. “We are trying to attend as many events as possible so that we are ready to make a decision by the time it’s our turn to vote in the primaries,” said Bemus.
While undecided voters spend their time trying to sift through the presidential candidates, a handful of passionate voters visit New Hampshire with a very clear objective: to get their candidate elected.
The Thursday before the New Hampshire primaries, Luis Salazar traveled to New Hampshire from Tampa, Florida to volunteer for the Warren campaign. “The reason I’m here is because I believe in Elizabeth Warren.” Salazar said. “I feel that when she speaks, she speaks for me, as a minority, and I think it’s the first time in Washington where it reflects my beliefs, and I feel I’m involved in that as well.” For the last five to six months, Salazar has volunteered for his local branch of the Warren campaign “Tampa for Warren.” Running the campaign Instagram while simultaneously engaging in public outreach, Salazar values his part in connecting voters to the campaign.
“I am allowed to go to my local caucuses, and local community events,” Salazar said, “I’m not asking for endorsements or directly asking people to vote for Elizabeth Warren, but I’m sitting there and talking to people in my community. I’m mostly there to listen to them.” It was this engagement in local politics that inspired Salazar to venture to New Hampshire for the weekend and continue his campaigning efforts for Warren. At a Warren debate watch party, Salazar was surrounded by colleagues who were as passionate about Warren as he was. Volunteering in New Hampshire the weekend before the primaries also meant that Salazar would most likely meet Elizabeth Warren, which he was very excited about. “She is captivating.” He said.
Similarly, Robin Clemmons from Worcester, Mass. made a similar trip to New Hampshire to volunteer for the Pete Buttigieg campaign. Decked out in Buttigieg merchandise, Clemmons told the story of how she became interested in Buttigieg a year ago in February 2019, after she went to see the candidate give a speech in Raymond, NH with her son. “He came over to us afterwards and I asked him a really hard question and unlike other politicians, he stopped, he thought about what I had asked him, and then he gave a very well thought out answer and I thought ‘wow, this is not your typical politician.’”
Regardless of whether a voter has decided on which candidate they are voting for, the New Hampshire primaries attract people who want to be politically engaged, granting them the opportunity to see candidates in person. From taking selfies with Elizabeth Warren at a town hall forum to shaking hands with Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally, the primaries grant voters the rare chance to come face to face with presidential candidates, while also meeting politicos from all across the country and volunteering for the campaigns which they align with.
Allowing voters to immerse themselves into the world of politics, the New Hampshire primaries is a unique hotspot for political junkies and voters who simply wish to seek more information on the presidential elections.