MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The days leading up to the New Hampshire primary have been a whirlwind of campaign rallies, candidate meet-and-greets, and political stunts. Even working from downtown Manchester -- the scene of many such election-related events as the largest city in the state, if not necessarily a metropolis by East Coast standards -- it has been impossible to see more than a small fraction of what’s been going on.
Though the various campaigns have been creative in putting together a wide range of promotional activities to persuade undecided voters to their side in Manchester, the candidates themselves have not been as accessible as their glad-handing public images might suggest.
The closest I managed to get was seeing Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) in a local coffee shop, only to have her walk right past me as I tried to ask a question without giving even the most token acknowledgment, except if you count apologies for the senator’s busy schedule from members of her entourage that quickly stepped in, allowing Klobuchar to make her escape like a squid disappearing in an ink cloud.
Of the two party primaries Tuesday, the Democratic contest was being watched much more closely by most observers, considering the overwhelming likelihood that President Trump will win his party’s nomination, even though a few others, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, were also running in the Republican Primary.
Following the final Democratic debate Friday before the Feb. 11 vote, though, one of the biggest events of New Hampshire’s pre-primary pandemonium was a Trump rally planned for Monday. While the event was free to attend, however, those committed to doing so were asked to show up four hours before the 7 p.m. rally was scheduled to actually begin.
“I’m out here to support President Trump not because I’m a Republican or Democrat but because he tells it like it is. Better are the stings of a friend than the kisses of an enemy,” said Ed DeMayo, who said he was an opera singer from Rhode Island who was visiting New Hampshire to demonstrate ahead of the primaries, and began singing patriotic songs. DeMayo later gave me a business card describing him as a “crooner extraordinaire” to back up his claim.
“Listen, the days of that phoniness of a president being presidential -- and they were all doing things behind the scenes -- is over. Truth is more prevalent than phoniness, and at this time in the world we need truth more than ever,” DeMayo said. Trump was elected “by divine appointment,” he said.
“Sure we could -- like me, I’m poor, we could have a little more medical assistance -- but you know what? Thank God I was born in America,” DeMayo said.
In the Democratic contest, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) continued to maintain his lead in the polls Monday, followed by former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, Klobuchar, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and several other candidates who have been polling in the single digits.
Nancy Brennan, a retired high school theater teacher originally from Massachusetts but now living in Weare, New Hampshire, was demonstrating Saturday in support of Bernie Sanders outside the Southern New Hampshire University Arena at the same event as DeMayo. She said she didn’t think Sanders supporters overlapped much with Buttigieg’s base.
“I think there are very few people that are Pete-or-Bernie,” Brennan said. “They tend to be Elizabeth-or-Bernie or Pete-or-Biden, you know, I think there are the corporate Dems and there are the rest of the Dems.”
Mel Ingalls of Gilford, New Hampshire, meanwhile, discussed his reasons for supporting a candidate who has not been among the most popular in recent polls, Andrew Yang, who is probably best known for his plan to give every American adult a “Freedom Dividend” of $1,000 per month.
“He is the first political candidate I’ve ever heard who is talking about what’s really coming. You know, he talks about -- as do most political candidates -- the 4 million manufacturing jobs that we’ve lost, but he’s the only one who’s talking about what’s coming: the 2.5 million call center jobs, and the 3.5 million truck drivers, and the 7 million people who support the truck drivers on truck routes. So he’s the one who’s talking about how automation -- you know whether it’s AI, or self-driving cars, or whatever -- is replacing labor,” Ingalls said.
“So he’s talking about taxing that technology and using it to support people with his Freedom Dividend, which I think is a fantastic idea because it puts money back in the local communities.”
Ingalls, formerly a strategic management consultant, “was kind of forced into retirement a couple of years ago” and since then has been “going nuts,” he said.
“I mean I’m just going crazy for something to do and one of things Andrew talks about is ‘look, we have to develop a society where people’s self worth is not associated with their work, because a lot of work is going away,” Ingalls said.
Whether the New Hampshire Democratic primary goes to one of the presumed frontrunners or an underdog unexpectedly emerges to take the top spot in the final hours before polls close remains to be seen as the deluge of campaign activity and media coverage of the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary reaches its high-water mark and begins to recede.