Andrew’s NH Predictions

For the last month, I have been traveling around New Hampshire and going to campaign events for nearly every candidate (all except Carson and Gilmore). I have waited three hours to watch Hillary Clinton speak, taken a funny video with Marco Rubio, and memorized more than one candidate’s stump speech.

As the election comes to a close, crowds have gotten bigger and events have become more frequent. A committed political nerd with a car can make it to four campaign events a day, such as my friends and I have done. And a few dozen events and a few thousand miles in the car have provided me with more than enough time to have a deep, holistic understanding of the New Hampshire primaries. Here’s my take:


The Big Winners: Bernie, Trump, and Kasich.

Bernie: Bernie is going to have a clear victory tonight. While he has been speaking in packed gyms and conference rooms throughout the state, his supporters are out in force canvassing and phone banking. My best guess is that Bernie will take 55% of the Democratic vote.

Trump: Donald has been dominating in the polls for a long time in New Hampshire. As we saw in Iowa, he will not end up as high as the polls show, but still a clear Trump victory is to be expected. Notably, his events have changed in tone from the ranting Trump we’ve come to know to more of an organized stump speech. His event last night in Manchester was the place to be for everyone north of Boston; it seemed that almost half the crowd did not support him, but just came for the last New Hampshire Trump circus.

Kasich: Ohio’s governor will surprise a lot of people with his performance tonight. He has been battling with Rubio for second place for a while and Saturday night’s debate sealed the deal. After tonight’s finish he’ll look to build a coalition around himself as the top moderate Republican governor, above Bush and Christie, as quickly as possible. The most highly coveted position in the Republican field right now is in second place as the anti-Trump. Kasich will hold it for a while, but he can only withstand being on the receiving end of attacks for so long until his support wavers.


They Needed More: Rubio, Bush, and Cruz

Rubio: Aiming to take second place in New Hampshire after his big night in Iowa, Rubio may not be able to achieve his goals. The gaffe on Saturday hurt him significantly, so he will have to settle for third. It still puts him as the most electable candidate to take on Trump, but third place is not enough for party leaders to coalesce around him yet.

Bush: Jeb came into New Hampshire needing a big win. Unfortunately for him, he will land in the middle of the gubernatorial pack. It is enough to outlast Christie, but he needs to assert himself as the top Republican governor in the race if he wants to stay in until the end.

Cruz: After his win in the Hawkeye State, Cruz aimed to become the Republican’s anti-Trump candidate. It hasn’t happened yet. With demographics that don’t play well to Cruz’s strengths, especially religion, he won’t be able to carry the momentum forward much more. He will need to do very well in South Carolina to reestablish himself a top three candidate.


The Losers: Clinton, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, and Gilmore

Clinton: Hillary’s loss tonight will set the Clinton Camp back a few steps, but nothing they have not prepared for. After a virtual tie in Iowa, Bernie will have strong momentum going into South Carolina and Nevada, but he won’t fare as well there. The real dividing point will be on Super Tuesday where Clinton’s money, organization, and staff will place her as the clear frontrunner again.

Christie: There has been no one more effective at town halls that I have seen as Chris Christie. After many events I’ve overheard attendees say “I was undecided before, but I’m definitely voting Christie now.” People love how he speaks bluntly and directly. However, he was unable to reach enough voters in time. I think he will take a clear 6th place in the polls, but not high enough to stick in the race until March.

Fiorina: The former CEO has proven strong on the debate stage, but her boost from it came too early to help. Leaving New Hampshire with a performance in the low single digits, the real question for Fiorina is how long to keep fighting.

Carson: Carson has not been campaigning much in the Granite State and his numbers are bound to show it. He’ll need to reappear on the radar in South Carolina if he hopes to stay in until March, but I doubt that will happen.

Gilmore: Yes, he is still running. Hopefully he can break his record of 12 votes in Iowa, but it will not make a difference.

In summary, here’s the lineup:

Republicans: Trump (29%), Kasich (19%), Rubio (15%), Cruz (14%), Bush (12%), Christie (7%), Fiorina (3%), Carson (1%), Gilmore (0%)

Democrats: Sanders (55%), Clinton (45%)

Between a Wonk and a Hard Place: Welcome to the Granite State


Pulling off the highway, we saw the hotel where Bernie Sanders was speaking. Immediately, I was surprised. This fancy Radisson seemed so not Bernie. It looked like a castle! Yet, the parking lot was full of cars sporting the unmistakable blue Bernie 2016 bumper sticker. Sure enough, we were in the right place.

Once inside, Bernie’s volunteers greeted us with stickers and a clipboard asking for our information. They then ushered us through the grand halls of the hotel to what they called the “waiting room.” There was a line of chairs along the walls of the room, but people were mostly mingling and enjoying cups of refreshing orange water.

While in the waiting room, we were approached by a few activists asking for support. As usual, we stopped them before they could go much further to inform them that we were not New Hampshire voters. But thanks to these activists and the other enthusiastic Bernie supporters, the room certainly had a special kind of buzz. Only a very unique politician could bring these people, young and old (mostly white), together.

Eventually, Bernie’s volunteers escorted us into the room where Bernie would speak. We were instructed to sit and remain seated by the volunteers (by the tone of their voices, it was clear the power had gone to their heads a little).

Once seated, I looked around the room. It was perplexing because our group of chairs seemed to be arranged to face the wall. We quickly realized that this was a temporary wall. As the Bernie volunteers deconstructed the wall, a ballroom full of conference goers was revealed to us. They seemed excited to see us, whipping out their phones and taking pictures of us.

This was not your typical Bernie event. Well, our section of the audience seemed pretty typical but the people in the ballroom were simply attending a conference on poverty at which Bernie was the keynote speaker.

Still, a conference on poverty—now, that’s something Bernie Sanders is pretty comfortable talking about.

Bernie in Nashua

Bernie Sanders in Nashua

Throughout Senator Sanders’ speech, our side of the room hooted and hollered and the ballroom guests clapped politely. Sanders knows how to get a room fired up about the harm of income inequality. He argued that corruption in Washington DC is fueled by the fact that people with low incomes don’t vote. He called for pay equity for women. He expressed his outrage at the 51% unemployment rate among black youth.

He shared two particular anecdotes to illustrate the income inequality crisis. First, he highlighted the family that owns Walmart as being one of the richest families, while Walmart as a company pays its employees an obscenely small amount. And he also criticized Goldman Sachs for contributing to making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Sanders also connected well with the crowd by criticizing the amount of money that many seniors are forced to live on—citing the numbers as $12,000 and $13,000 per year.

Finally, Bernie Sanders ended by reminding us that “our government belongs to us.” To this, the audience erupted with approval. There is not mistaking—Sanders has some very passionate supporters.



 Unable to find Bernie’s bus to take a selfie with it, we hopped in the car and headed to the New Hampshire coast for a town hall with Jeb Bush. We pulled up and parked in front of the high school where Bush was speaking, unable to find a spot in the school’s parking lot.

We arrived only five minutes late but Jeb confirmed the Bush’s commitment to on-time events because his stump speech was already in full swing. The town hall set up was picture perfect. Bush stood in a circle of Granite Staters with an American flag splayed behind him. There is no doubt—he looked like a leader.

Bush connected well with the audience of older New Hampshirites. He got laughs from the crowd when he joked, “We’re in the eighth year of Barack Obama’s presidency and I think he has finally stopped blaming my brother.”

Bush also poked fun at Donald Trump, sarcastically using phrases like “it’ll be huge” or “it’ll be fantastic.” He warned, “Let the front runner win, that’ll be wonderful.” Still, he agreed to say a few nice things about Trump in case his mom was watching.

After a well-polished stump speech, Bush answered questions from the audience. He responded to a total of eleven questions—doubling the number that most the candidates we’ve seen typically answer.

When asked whether trump had helped him or challenged him, he confidently responded, “No.” One woman expressed her concern about polls and suggested he use his brother and dad on the campaign trail. To which, Bush agreed but also emphasized that he was dedicated to blazing his own trail. He agreed there is a need to reform the culture in DC.

He thrived when answering policy questions on topics like Medicare advantage, Patriot Act, guns, and federal income tax reform. In terms of education policy, the crowd asked Bush about Common Care and college interest rates. In his discussion of college affordability, Bush criticized college professors and students, which didn’t play well with some of us in the audience…but seemed to make sense to others in the room.

Additionally, two questioners highlighted to need for the next president to show strength in the face of countries that are testing the United States like North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia.

Through his responses, Governor Jeb Bush came off as very personable. Of course, Bush couldn’t hide his wonky tendencies but he was able to joke and relate to the people in the room. In fact, I left feeling surprised he still isn’t doing better in the polls.

The Yard Sign Caucus

A Kasich supporter's decked out Airstream before a town hall event at Franklin Pierce University. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

A Kasich supporter’s decked out Airstream before a town hall event at Franklin Pierce University. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

It takes all of ten minutes of driving through New Hampshire to get a different perspective on the election. The campaign signs that line roads and backyards offer an informal indication of support and committed supporters, similar to the first snowfall of the years that signals an oncoming winter.

Although not a perfect straw poll, there are a few interesting takeaways one can gather from the signs in the Granite State. After driving about 1,300 miles over the past two weeks, these are my thoughts on how the candidates are faring in the yard sign caucus.

Jeb!; JEB… Jeb?: Jeb Bush’s signs throughout the state are some of the most prevalent and interesting. Along with his well known “Jeb!” signs there are others which scream the word “JEB”, in all capital letters with white font on a flat red poster. Most of the Jeb signs are placed in sets, usually of four to eight in a row alongside the road or at major intersections. Clearly, these are not big Bush supporters taking the signs home from rallies, but rather staff or committed volunteers working with the campaign. After seeing so many bland JEB signs clumped along the highway, I’ve certainly become a fan of the exclamation point.

Trump: Most of Donald’s signs are similar to his ego–huge. Standing four feet tall and eight feet wide they are found in store windows, on lawns, and even in front of a few farms and lakes facing major roads, especially in the most conservative parts of the state. Scattered throughout the state you see smaller signs on lawns that claimed the businessman will make America great again.

Bernie: True to his theme of being a man of the people, his signs are small and plentiful. Across New Hampshire both houses and small businesses proudly displayed their Bernie signs, sometimes several are clustered on the same lawn. Some areas have many more signs than others, generally signs are closer to cities rather than very urban areas.

Carly: With signs much better than her poll numbers, Fiorina’s name is well mixed among houses and roads. Sometimes Carly signs near roads or outside businesses are just as large as Trump’s. However, generally they are standard sized.

Kasich: Although they don’t have signs at as many houses as Fiorina, the Kasich campaign worked to make up the difference along major roads and intersections.

Hillary: Although not as prevalent as any of the candidates listed above, Hillary signs are visible throughout the state.

Carson: Not nearly as numerous as Bush’s signs, Carson’s were clearly placed at strategic locations along roads by staffers or volunteers. The proportion of signs is significantly higher than the 3% he is currently polling at in the state.

The Rest of the Pack: Signs for any of the other candidates are few and far between in New Hampshire. Rubio, Cruz, and Christie, although doing well in some polls, have no substantial presence on the roads of the Granite State.

Note: My travel throughout New Hampshire has mostly on larger roads throughout the southern half of the state over the past few weeks. These observations reflect that travel.



This was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

O’Malley to New Hampshire Voters: Hey, I Exist!

O'Malley speaking to attendees at his town hall. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

O’Malley speaking to attendees at his town hall. Photo by Andrew Plotch.

Last week, former Governor Martin O’Malley began his town hall meeting at New England College by comparing his own debate performance to the tiny Who-ville residents in Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, where only one endearing elephant can hear them, no matter how loud they scream and shout.

O’Malley discussed why Clinton and Sanders had dominated the last debate. He explained that the moderators told the campaigns that 90 percent of the questions would go to the two frontrunners. O’Malley spoke about he had to fight his way into the conversation and then make his case in just the few seconds he had.

O’Malley told the sparse audience in Henniker, New Hampshire that his campaign was like a boat and the election was like a river, giving him little control where he could go. Unfortunately for O’Malley, he seems to have accidentally launched his rowboat among cruise ships.

When one questioner bemoaned the lack of debates, O’Malley took the chance to berate the Democratic National Committee for both limiting the number of debates and scheduling them far from primetime. Of the four so far, three have been over the weekends, two of which fell on Saturday nights. Much has been discussed about how minimizing the number of debates helps Hillary Clinton, but O’Malley went on to discuss how Bernie Sanders would not want to add debates because the current schedule helps to ensure a two-person race.

In the same manner as in the debates, O’Malley tried to differentiate himself from the two Democratic front runners by highlighting his executive experience at the town hall. Nearly every question he was asked on domestic policies during the town hall meeting, he answered with a reference to an initiative he had championed as either Maryland’s governor or Baltimore’s mayor.

After the event, the volunteers for the O’Malley campaign asked everyone on their way out if they could help the campaign’s Get Out The Vote efforts. Declining to sign up, I asked one staffer for a card so I could reach out if I ended up being interested. His response: “Do you think we can afford business cards?”


This was originally published on the Huffington Post.

The Theatrics of a Rubio Town Hall

On Friday afternoon, Marco Rubio’s town hall event in Henniker, New Hampshire was my first chance to see him in person. Throughout the event, Rubio subtly differentiated himself from his staff, portraying himself as someone who wants to connect even more with voters, but his campaign is holding him back. It was clearly scripted, but meant to seem natural.

Marco Rubio has impressed me for a while now, albeit only for his politics, not his policies. He is a strong messenger for his ideas and incredibly talented at sidestepping questions to get his talking points across (a skill he has been using often in debates), not to mention young, good looking, and Hispanic.


In New Hampshire on Friday, although clearly a bit tired coming out of the previous night’s debate, Rubio excelled on the stage, connecting with voters on policy questions and sharing in their day-to-day struggles. He paints a picture of himself as an everyday guy fighting for every average Joe.

Before a staffer got to an audience member to ask the first question of the event, Rubio asked a 13-year-old girl who was sitting with her class in the front row to come up and ask a question. He promptly apologized to the woman who was supposed to ask the first question, explaining how he thought he’d just get started right in front. The girl, Maddie, then asked the senator a potentially planted question, “What are you going to do about the newly formed relationship between Cuba and the U.S.?” Rubio hit a home run with the crowd. Drawing on his Cuban background, he lashed out at Obama for his foreign policy building a case against Cuba referencing both China and Russia. After this response, he moved back to the questioner who the staff had previously picked, and once again apologized profusely.

Later on and nearing the end of time for questions, a staffer shouted “this is the last question” before a middle-aged woman stood up. Rubio interjected, saying that he wanted to take another one after hers — and then he took two more. The move made him come across like he wanted to stay all day and talk to people.

At one point, Rubio interrupted one woman before she asked her question by inquiring about the New England Patriots hat she was wearing. After mentioning the pain that the hat brought him as a Dolphins fan, he asked the crowd about how Gronkowski was doing and when Brady would finally retire. It was a subtle change of topic and I’m sure that to many in attendance, Rubio appeared to be more interested in football than the policy at hand. He once again apologized to his staff for going off topic and returned to the event-goer’s question. Yet, with two simple questions of the audience, he made voters in the room feel that they could run into Rubio at the bar or around town and have the same conversation.

I don’t believe that I’ll ever run into Rubio at the supermarket nor that he is actually more interested in football than in politics. However, if he can keep this up, then I think he will be moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next January — working down the hall from Nikki Haley or John Kasich.


This was originally published on the Huffington Post.

Kasich: “I’m a prince of light”

Thus far, we have attended three John Kasich town halls. While the setting and tone of each was different, I consistently walked away with the same impression of the candidate. He is a moderate Republican with a substantial record as both a governor and a congressman. In his stump, Kasich emphasizes the importance of pragmatism and bipartisanship. He is more policy-oriented than some of his opponents, particularly Cruz and Trump. However, he seems slightly less wonky when compared to Jeb Bush. His sense of humor is awkward and his interactions with his audience are surprisingly confrontational. On paper, Kasich seems like a well-prepared candidate. However, in person, he is sarcastic, impatient, and bad-tempered.

On Monday, January 18th, after leaving Ted Cruz’s town hall in Washington, NH, we drove to Hanover for Kasich’s economic town hall at Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School. During the hour-long wait for the candidate to arrive, the lecture hall filled up with students, professors, administrators, and other community members. There were multiple overflow rooms prepared for the event. They were unnecessary.

Finally, the candidate arrived with his wife and twin daughters. He was introduced by former Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire, the business school’s president, and a second-year student. Kasich took the microphone and gave a brief stump speech. He seemed tired and ready to finish his day of campaigning. He apologized for being late, but blamed it on his staff and played it off with a Bill Clinton joke. Kasich explained that he was excited to take a moment on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to reflect upon what has been done to make increase equality in this country and highlighted his record on criminal justice reform. Before taking questions, Kasich made an awkward reference to The Hobbit, but forgot the names of the main characters, so the whole thing quickly fell apart and he moved on to his concluding points.


Kasich at the Tuck Business School

Kasich took over thirteen questions from the audience. The other candidates we have seen often take no more than five or seven. Here are a couple standout moments from the Q&A portion:

  • One man in the audience, who had clearly attended other Kasich events, asked the candidate, if he will enact policies that are based in empirical fact as opposed to political expediency? The questioner cited a panel of climate scientists and when Kasich challenged him, he said “that’s what science says.” Kasich responded, “that’s what a panel says.”
  • In response to another question about how he will help the youth of America, he explained that he is running a positive campaign. He explained that he “is not a prince of darkness.” John Kasich is “a prince of light”
  • The second-to-last question was on campaign finance reform. Kasich gave a rambling, awkward answer that included statements like “give me money, whatever” and “I’m just a slob trying to make it through.” He did admit that he does think reforms need to be made to limit gerrymandering and the control of billionaires over elections.

The following Tuesday, January 26th, we attended two more Kasich town halls. The first was at Molly’s Tavern in New Boston, a small town outside Manchester. The space was small and no more than 40 people were in attendance. While waiting for the candidate to arrive I chatted with an older woman from the town. She told me that if Bloomberg enters the race as an independent and it’s between him, Trump, and Clinton, she would vote for Bloomberg. This could be the first election in her life in which she does not vote Republican. I asked her about her thoughts on other moderate Republicans. She explained that she likes Jeb Bush and thinks it is unfortunate how poorly he is doing. She attributes his low poll numbers to his lack of charisma, not his name. She thinks Marco Rubio is too young and is hesitant to elect another junior senator.

Kasich at Molly's Tavern

Kasich at Molly’s Tavern

The Ohio attorney general introduced the candidate, emphasizing their work on cleaning up the opioid crisis in Ohio. Kasich began his stump, which hit many of the same points as his Darmouth speech, but definitely emphasized his record on helping Ohioans with addiction. Here are of the interesting points from this town hall:

  • At one point, he compared something to “hitting a home run… that’s like a two-point conversion.” The audience groaned and Kasich reminded them, “I don’t pander.”
  • He turned to us and asked about our ages. He reminded us not to bully people, but then proceeded to judge one member of our team for being a Political Science major, asking, “what are you going to do with that?” (maybe become governor of Ohio… just a thought). He was relieved to learn Nora is also on the pre-med track.
  • A high school senior asked Kasich how he would make college more affordable and if you would try to find ways to cap high interest rates on student loans. He struggled to give her a specific answer, suggesting that the young woman consider a couple years at community college. He turned to his staff and asked, “can somebody make a note on the interest rate issue?” He explained, “I don’t have an answer to every question.”
  • One audience member asked why members of Congress who passed the Affordable Care Act are still allowed to hold office, since they approved legislation that the Supreme Court had previously deemed unconstitutional. A puzzled Kasich quickly responded, “I don’t think that happened.”
  • In his concluding remarks he made one last plea for votes. He explained, “if I get snuffed out in New Hampshire, it’s ballgame over.” This moment of transparency and honesty certainly played well with the crowd.

We left Molly’s Tavern to get to Kasich’s next event at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, NH. Even though we pulled out of the parking lot after the campaign bus, we waited for over half an hour before the event began. Finally, the president of the university and former Senator John Sununu introduced the candidate. “Seven Nation Army” came on over the loudspeakers and Kasich entered the room. Again, here are the highlights of this town hall:

  • He opened his stump by telling the members of the audience that we are each “made to do something special.” While he has always framed himself as the “optimistic” candidate, this was an oddly kind note for the typically sarcastic Kasich to take.
  • He also highlighted his pragmatic approach and tendency to work well with Democrats. According to Kasich, during his presidency, the Republicans will call the tune, but everyone will be included in the orchestra. He explained that he is not beholden to the Republican Party, because he “only takes orders from one person in the world, [his] wife.”
  • When someone asked him about campaign finance reform, he seemed more genuinely prepared and interested, explaining that he thinks the issue is “really significant.”

On the whole, Kasich clearly has a lot of experience as both an executive and legislator. He knows his policy and avoids clichés. However, unlike some of his opponents, he rarely has big applause lines. He doesn’t preach like Cruz or pander like Rubio. He lacks the charisma and interpersonal skills that make candidates successful in these small settings. After having seen Kasich’s performance in these three town halls, the lackluster nature of today’s New York Times endorsement is apt.

Not sure if we will find ourselves at another Kasich event next week, but keep reading to find out!

Hillary in Rochester

When we pulled into Rochester for Hillary Clinton’s town hall, the sight of a line beginning to form an hour before the doors were scheduled to open was a clear sign it would be bigger than the other town halls we’d seen. We had all received emails and phone calls from staff who wanted to make sure we were still planning on coming, but if they were worried about filling the room, the sight of the line around the building three hours before Hillary would take the stage must have reassured them.

We took the opportunity to interview some of the people who were willing to stand in line for hours before Clinton arrived. As we began asking questions, we soon understood that most of them were longtime Clinton supporters—most said “since the beginning,” and for many, that meant since the ‘90s.

The crowd was demographically similar to other events we’ve been to, though there were noticeably more older women present. They were a politically active and dedicated bunch; many had volunteered in past cycles (those not volunteering this month usually cited their bones in this weather as the biggest barrier). Though we all grumbled about the cold, waiting did not deter this crowd.


                              The line wrapped around the building

While they were full of enthusiasm for Hillary, the other motivating factor that many cited in our interviews was the need to protect Obama’s legacy. The mention of the Republican candidates and some of their extreme statements brought visible disgust to some faces; keeping a Republican out of the White House was a top priority.

The doors opened up a few minutes behind schedule, and the intense security did not help speed things along. The Secret Service, TSA, and local police all worked together to make sure we were thoroughly screened. For future reference: the TSA line moves considerably slower than the Secret Service line.

As we chatted with reporters in the main room while waiting for the rest of the line to trickle in, we immediately began to regret listening to “The Official Hillary 2016 Playlist” on Spotify on the drive up from Manchester, as the same 10 songs played on a loop for the next two hours. Some staffer was given the job of finding the perfect music to reflect Hillary’s new image, and with songs like “The Fighter,” “Roar,” and “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” we understood the message loud and clear.

While it felt like the line and security situation could have been better organized, the professionalism of Hillary’s campaign showed through once we saw the perfectly set up stage. A huge American flag served as the backdrop, local volunteers were invited to sit on the stage and given strategically placed Hillary signs, and the lighting made even iPhone pictures look good. After everyone in line finally made it through the metal detectors, Colin Van Ostern, a candidate for governor in New Hampshire, got up on stage to introduce Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Clinton.


Shaheen introducing Clinton

Shaheen focused on Clinton’s ability to get things done, a theme Clinton expanded upon during her speech. She portrayed herself as the clear alternative to the Republican field, the one who would protect Obama’s progress instead of “ripping it up.” Unlike at some of the town halls we’ve been to with many undecided voters, this group of dedicated supporters roared with applause at each of Clinton’s clap lines.

Her main focus was the economy, and she distinguished herself from the Republicans in her desire to make it “work for everyone.” She appealed to the liberal base through economic policy, saying that she is the only candidate who has pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class, and will raise them on the millionaires and billionaires instead. She touted her plan for Wall Street reform and said that some have called it tougher than Bernie’s plan; her assurance that there will be “no bank too big to fail and no executive too big to jail” was met with loud applause. She also touched on other aspects of her economic policy, highlighting her plans to crack down on hedge funds and the shadow banking system.


The story that perhaps resonated with the crowd the most, though, was about a conversation she had with a young man who found that as a teenager, he was making more than his mother, who had worked at the same store for four years and had helped him get the job. There was a collective gasp that spread across the opera house. She used the moment to call for the Paycheck Fairness Act and linked it to raising the minimum wage by pointing out that 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women. The room exploded with applause.

Surrounded by a couple hundred cheering supporters, Hillary looked comfortable on stage. There were a few slightly awkward moments, such as a weird line about how much Bill loves New Hampshire, but her polished performance was a clear effort to portray herself as the most experienced candidate, and one who will fight for Democratic values.

We unfortunately had to head out before the questions began, but we’ve now seen all of the Democratic candidates–we’re still working on the (much longer) list of Republicans. Keep following along for more updates!

Miles on the road: 195

The “Cruzin’ to Victory” Tour

Ted Cruz’s January 18th town hall definitely lived up to its eye-roll worthy title: “Cruzin’ to Victory Tour – ‘This is The REAL Washington – NOT DC!’ Town Hall Meeting with Ted Cruz.” Held inside the Camp Morgan Lodge in Washington, NH, this Cruz campaign event continues to standout from the many town halls and rallies we have attended in the last two and a half weeks.

The Camp Morgan Lodge is in an isolated area of Washington, a very small town in southern New Hampshire. The lodge is a modest building at the end of a gravel road. However, inside, the set up was far from modest. Spotlights shone on the small stage and the backdrop, which read “TRUSTED” (with emphasis on the “TED”) and the words: “courageous,” “conservative,” and “consistent.” Country music and Bruce Springsteen was playing over loudspeakers and flashy, dramatic videos were playing on two large screens that flanked the stage.

Cruz delivering his stump at the Camp Morgan Lodge in Washington, NH.

Cruz delivering his stump at the Camp Morgan Lodge in Washington, NH.

As we waited for the event to begin, members of the media mingled with attendees. We watched a photographer from The New York Times interviewing New Hampshire voters. He was compiling a profile on Independent voters, using a polaroid camera to take their photos. Meanwhile, a group of locals sitting behind us were discussing their preferred candidates. One was confident he would vote for Cruz, mostly because his “website is the most comprehensive.”

At 11:40am, about a dozen members of the media filed into the room and set up their equipment. A Cruz staffer made sure that the aisle we were sitting on was clear. A local politician and a representative of the campaign both gave introductions for the candidate. We stood for the pledge of allegiance and for a prayer for America and its future leaders. Before Cruz entered the room, the promotional video played one last time. Finally, the back door opened and the senator entered the room. Heading our way down the aisle, he shook every hand, even if it was not outstretched to him.

Cruz answers a question about paid family leave.

Taking the stage, Cruz asked the cheering audience: “how ’bout them Patriots?” He quickly added that he does not like pandering, however, he does think that Tom Brady was framed. By who? Hillary Clinton, that’s why she deleted her emails! The crowd laughed, but the joke was a very awkward way to start the event. After a few more laugh lines about how happy he was to be in the “real Washington,” Cruz launched into his standard stump, explaining how he wants to bring an “awakening” to this country.

Cruz then talked about his first day in office. Here’s his agenda for Friday, January 20, 2017:

  1. Rescind all the “illegal” actions taken by President Obama. He explained this goal with a convoluted metaphor about how he “lives by the pen” and “dies by the pen,” but his pen has an eraser (Senator Cruz, may I introduce you to the word “pencil”?).
  2. Ask the Department of Justice to open an investigation on Planned Parenthood (the audience particularly enjoyed this line).
  3. Require all branches and departments of the federal government to seek out persecution of religious freedom.
  4. “Rip to shreds” the nuclear deal with Iran (another big applause line).
  5. Move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “the once and eternal capital” of the nation.

“In the days that follow,” Cruz said he would work with Congress to repeal “every word of Obamacare.” He would also end Common Core and federal involvement in education. Cruz argued that the country needs a president who is willing to “utter the words ‘radical, Islamic terrorist.'” He believes that the status quo parallels the end of the Carter administration and the “Reagan Revolution.” According to Cruz, this revolution did not come from Washington, D.C., but rather the American people.

Towards the end of his stump, Cruz pivoted back to the need for an awakening in the United States. He concluded on the importance of American freedom, citing his father’s experience in Cuba. According to Cruz, when his father felt that his freedom was threatened in Cuba, he came to America, which led the candidate to ask: “if Americans lose their freedom, where do we go?”

Cruz then opened the floor up to questions. Of the six that were asked, two focused on religion. The first question was about how he would protect religious liberty in the U.S. and across the world. Cruz took this as an opportunity to discuss the threat of ISIS and how the group’s destruction is the best way to protect American religious freedom. The second question was about what Cruz would do to restore the Ten Commandments in public life. In response, Cruz discussed his record as the Texas solicitor general.

One member of the audience asked Cruz what characteristics he looked for in a running mate. He referred to Cruz as his “brother,” because he believed Cruz had been “saved.” He apologized if such language was inappropriate. Cruz quickly responded by saying one should ever “apologize for their faith.” The candidate then explained that it was too early to talk about vice presidential picks. However, he thinks all of his opponents in the Republican field would be worthy members of any cabinet.

Another question that stood out was asked by a young woman. As a mother, she wanted to know where Cruz stood on paid leave, citing Rubio’s stance on the issue. He quickly shut down the question, explaining that the only way to make some sort of paid leave possible would be to return the United States to a robust economic growth. There is “no doubt we would love to offer paid leave,” explained Cruz, but giving away free things is impractical. In response to a question on the potential for a convention of the states, Cruz, like Rubio, said he would propose two amendments: balanced budget and term limits for Congress and the judiciary.

In his closing remarks, Cruz implored the audience to get involved, volunteer, and, most importantly, pray. He cited one last biblical verse, which a number of audience members knew word for word, and entered the crowd to take pictures with eager supporters.

Throughout the event, Cruz seemed more like a preacher and less like a candidate for president. Judeo-Christian values and religious freedom were prioritized by both the candidate and his audience. Cheers from the crowd were punctuated by “amen” and “God bless.” Compared to Rubio’s event, the audience was older, more white, and more decided. Based on the anecdotal conversations we overheard, many of the attendees were already Cruz supporters, which explains why he connected so well with the audience.

We couldn’t hang around too long because we had to get to Hanover, NH for a 3:30pm Kasich town hall. Read our next post to hear about Kasich’s unique sense of humor and communication “skills.”

Project Metrics

  • Selfies with the campaign bus (and a signed copy of the Bill of Rights):IMG_9074
  • Miles on the road: 107
  • Yard signs:
    • 3 John Kasich
    • 3 Hillary Clinton
    • 3 Ted Cruz
    • 5 Donald Trump
    • 6 Carly Fiorina
    • 14 Bernie Sanders


#HeyMarco in Henniker

Last Friday we travelled to Henniker, NH to attend a Rubio town hall. After two hours in the car, we pulled up to New England College’s Simon Center. Even though we arrived 45 minutes before the 12:15pm start time, the parking lot was full and only a few seats were empty. Rubio’s staffers, clad in their Marco Rubio windbreakers, were buzzing around the room with coffees and 5-hour ENERGY bottles in their hands.

New England College's Simon Center before Rubio's arrival

New England College’s Simon Center before Rubio’s arrival

Long before Rubio arrived at 12:25pm, the room had filled up. A group students from the local middle-school arrived and were directed to sit around the stage. After introductions from members of the college’s community and the pledge of allegiance, Rubio entered the room, donning a sweatshirt with his campaign logo over his tie and button-down shirt.

Before taking questions, Rubio opened with his standard stump speech. From the beginning he emphasized how he would be different from President Barack Obama. He criticized the president for undermining the Constitution. Unlike President Obama, Rubio said he would not be a president who apologizes for America. He went on to list the various threats that the United States has to deal with in the 21st century, including a “lunatic in North Korea” and an Iranian nuclear weapon. He then pivoted to discussing the problem with establishment politics. He called out leaders, particularly Hillary Clinton, for being out of touch with the American public.

Rubio returned to criticizing the current president’s legacy, saying he will repeal every single one of Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive orders. He then proposed a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and term limits on Congress and the judiciary.

Pivoting back to national security, Rubio focused on the threat of ISIS. Under a Rubio presidency, sanctuary cities would immediately lose federal funding. “When I’m president, we are going to have a real war on terrorism. Terrorists will be sent to Guantanamo and we are going to find out every thing you know.”

Rubio then moved from national security to veterans affairs, accidentally criticizing the federal employees who staff VA facilities – “people at the VA aren’t doing a good job.” He quickly backtracked and clarified that some people at the VA are good, but “bad” employees would be fired.

Rubio clarified that he thinks the United States is “not a weak country.” He just thinks that we just have a bad president. Instead of ending there, Rubio concluded with an odd criticism of Chris Christie, even though he doesn’t support negative campaigns. He pulled a paper out of his back pocket and read Christie’s statement in favor of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor’s nomination. Before opening the floor up to questions he slammed Christie on his support for Common Core and gun control.

One of the students from the local middle school asked a question about Rubio’s stance on re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. The candidate said that he wants the American relationship with Cuba to improve because Cuba changes, not because the U.S. gives in. He cited the restoration of ties with Myanmar in 2012 as a good model to follow. The problem with Obama’s approach towards Cuba is that he changed U.S. policy, but did not ask the Cuban government to reciprocate.

In response to a question about PEPFAR, Rubio said he would increase funding for Bush’s program to relieve the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Africa. Also, in response to multiple questions on climate change, Rubio argued that “climate has always changed” and that the policies that are supposed to curb the effects of climate change seem to do nothing in terms of improving the environment. Instead, these policies would result in a huge job loss. However, Rubio did advocate for taking advantage of solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy. He was also asked how he would respond to the Pentagon’s decision that climate change is a national security threat. He said that the real threats are coming from terrorist groups and countries like North Korea, Iran, and Russia.

Marco Rubio at New England College for a town hall.

Marco Rubio at New England College for a town hall.

One of the more “human” moments of the town hall happened when a woman wearing a Patriots hat asked a question. Before she could get her point across, Rubio started making small talk about football. As a Dolphins fan, he jokingly asked the New England College audience, “when will Brady retire?” His well-documented love of football was apparent and the crowd loved it. The woman’s question was about how he would protect families who care for children with autism. Rubio responded with a story about a family friend with an autistic daughter and how he tried to change the way Florida dealt with this issue. He ended his answer by explaining where the government fit into the equation: “I’m a conservative, but I believe in the safety net because we cannot have free enterprise without a safety net.”

The last question came from another student who asked about Rubio’s plan to make higher education more affordable. Rubio argued that some of the best jobs today do not require a college degree (which completely contradicts Bernie Sanders’ go-to line that ” [a] college degree is the new high school diploma”). As an alternative to student loans, he proposed a student investment system, where students pay back their loans with a percentage of their income. Pivoting back to his campaign motto, “A New American Century,” Rubio concluded that the U.S. needs to teach its students employable skills in the 21st century, which apparently does not include Roman philosophy. Rubio then descended from the platform and the audience swarmed around him to take photos and get his signature.

Rubio’s stump and Q&A responses were filled with big applause lines. The press risers and desks were full and standing room was tight. The audience was energetic, racially diverse (for the third whitest state in the nation), and varied in age (probably because we were on a college campus). From the conversations we had with other people attending the event, some were undecided Republicans who liked Rubio and wanted to learn more. There were also some liberal individuals in attendance as well, particularly Sanders supporters.

Rubio connected well with the crowd and clearly appealed to more moderate strands of the party with his stump. Considering the fact that he had just debated on stage in South Carolina the night before and had a breakfast event in Derry, NH at 8:00am, Rubio was energetic, affable, and only slightly awkward (like that one time he forgot his daughter’s age). Looking forward to future events!

Project Metrics:

  • Miles on the road: 226
  • Selfies with the campaign bus: 

    Team with the Marco Rubio campaign bus.

    Team with the Marco Rubio campaign bus.

  • Yard signs:
    • 1 Rand Paul
    • 1 Carly Fiorina
    • 1 Bernie Sanders
    • 2 Donald Trump


Welcome to our Political Science Independent Study blog!

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

We are a group of four sophomores who will be spending the next couple of weeks traveling back and forth to New Hampshire to view the political spectacle leading up to the primary on February 9th. Aside from observing the events as students of Political Science, we will also be conducting a survey experiment on the effect that provocative statements have on voters’ decisions. Also, for discussions with our advisor, Professor Bert Johnson, we are reading texts like The Gamble and The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform to better understand the process we are studying. We will use this blog to write about the events we attend and share our experiences.

Please join us on our New Hampshire adventure!