1/13: On the Ground in New Hampshire

It’s a political junkie’s drug – New Hampshire in the days leading up to the primary.

2012 marked the Marist Poll’s seventh venture to the Granite State, but I was a newbie.

Here’s the back story.  Plain and simple, I love politics!  My passion for politics began fairly early in life, debating politics with family at the tender age of 12.  (With wisdom, I have learned to refrain from such discussions at family dinners.)

There are a couple of political endeavors to my credit.  Two valiant, yet failed, efforts – one in junior high and one in high school — for class president.  (Perhaps, a third attempt in college would have proved successful.  Even Nixon eventually gained the White House.)

Politics also played a role in fueling my future career in broadcast journalism.  However, when it came to major political events, I was often in-house taking in tape, editing pieces, creating graphics, and writing.  Certainly, I was never in the field in New Hampshire.  But, as a member of “Team Marist,” I was primed.

The excitement built within me as we traveled through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and, finally, into New Hampshire.  As we made our way into the state, roads were dotted with signs expressing support for the candidates.  It was almost as though politics permeated the air, and it wasn’t long before I witnessed the reality of the stories I had heard.  You can’t walk down the block without bumping into a journalist or politician.  I was in my element.

While I could go on and on, I will spare you every last detail of the trip.  Here are a few of my personal highlights.

    • The ABC News/Yahoo “Your Voice, Your Vote – Republican Presidential Debate in New Hampshire,” on Saturday, January 7th: This was no ordinary experience.  Our team was credentialed to watch the debate in the press filing center followed by access into the spin room.  There, my journalistic juices were flowing.  As each candidate’s representative entered the gymnasium of Saint Anselm’s College in Manchester, I darted over to the pack of journalists with my compact camera in hand.  Upon realizing former Senator Rick Santorum’s arrival, I elbowed my way into the pack trying to get a good shot of the candidate, but I was behind the senator.   After a quick scan of my surroundings, I noticed the exit to the room was to my right.  The light bulb went off.  Santorum would have to turn in my direction to leave.  I dug in and stayed put.  Santorum thanked the pack, turned, and slowly made his way through the scrum of journalists (a special word of thanks to Nancy Miringoff who braced me as the pressure of the group became almost overwhelming).  Then, the senator stopped and answered a question right in front of me.  Score!  I got the money shot.
    • The NBC News-Facebook Debate on Meet the Press on Sunday, January 8th:  Still riding high from the experience the night before, our team made its way in the wee hours of the morning from our hotel in Nashua to Concord for the final debate before the Republican primary.  Hard to believe, but this experience outdid the night before.  Sitting inside the debate hall, I watched the candidates interact with their advisers, their families, and each other during the commercial breaks; a very unique perspective.  (Thanks to our GOP primary polling partners at NBC News for making such an experience possible.)
    • Candidates’ Events on Monday, January 9th:  A Santorum town hall meeting in the morning, a Gingrich event in the afternoon, and a failed attempt to attend a Romney rally early in the evening offered a small taste of the candidates’ grueling schedule.  More importantly, witnessing the crowd size and the audience’s reactions demonstrated their enthusiasm (or lack there of) for the candidates.  The choice of venue, style, and candidate spin when answering audience questions, not only demonstrated their campaign strategies, but their proficiency or inexperience on the stump.
    • Polling Place Visit on primary day, Tuesday, January 10th:  After hopping a barricade, I was, once again, caught up in a pack of reporters as former Governor Jon Huntsman approached a polling place in Manchester.  Handicapped by height and distance, I tried to figure out a way to get the video I wanted.  Then, I realized Huntsman’s car was to my right.  I made my way to the car, hoping to get a shot of his departure, and soon, I found myself pinned against the vehicle.  As my knee went in one direction and my leg in the other, I raised my tiny camera and pushed back against the throng of reporters who came toward me.  Battling for the best angle, I viewed Huntsman and his wife through my lens and captured the governor as he discussed his daughters’ impact on his campaign.
    • A Who’s Who in the Radisson in Manchester on primary day added an exclamation point to my final hours in New Hampshire.  With the clock ticking down to the end of voting, Lee Miringoff, Barbara Carvalho, Nancy Miringoff, and I gathered at the hotel to conduct a few media interviews and to watch the results of the primary.  We stopped briefly to chat with an ABC reporter in the downstairs corridor of the hotel when I saw a group of cameras out of the corner of my eye.  A quick glance revealed Senator Santorum, his wife, and two of their children walking in our direction.  As they passed, the senator asked us how we were and continued on his way.  Up to the second floor we went for a radio interview.  After leaving radio row, we met up with Governor Huntsman on the staircase.  I took some video of Lee speaking with the candidate prior to my shaking hands with Huntsman.

And, so our whirlwind trip came to a close, but I would be remiss if I don’t mention two items which deserve honorable mention.

  • Famished and slightly exhausted, half of the MIPO team (the non-football fans went shopping) took a breather at J.W. Hill’s Sports Bar and Grille in Manchester to watch the NY Giants defeat the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs.  (A tip: if ever in the Manchester area, be sure to try the spinach and avocado dip at J.W. Hill’s.  The added tomato created a tantalizing culinary experience.)
  • Who knew?  Visitors to the Merrimack area can visit the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for a tour and get up close and personal with the famed Budweiser Clydesdales!

That said.  The race moves on to South Carolina, but this time I will be watching from afar!