Usually rendered irrelevant by its late primary date, Connecticut is poised this year to finally make a difference in the presidential nominating contests as one of 24 states voting on the Feb. 5 “Super-Duper Tuesday” — and local leaders are noticing.
HAMPTON, N.H. — As Keri Lucas, a 32-year-old schoolteacher from Nottingham, N.H., trudged through the snow outside Winnacunnet High School here last Sunday night, she could barely contain her excitement.
Lucas and her boyfriend’s mother, Judy Barsosky, 66, another schoolteacher, drove for close to an hour for the privilege of standing in the damp cold outside this school for another hour as dusk settled over the seaside town of 14,000. Of course, they would be heading to work at their own schools the next morning.
But that night, they were here to see Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ‘73, their favorite candidate among those Democrats vying for the presidential nomination. The women were longtime residents of Massachusetts, where they watched the New Hampshire buzz from a state away every four years and enjoyed candidate visits — the perk of proximity — themselves. But last winter, they moved across the border, just in time for their first New Hampshire primary.
“This,” Lucas said, “is the state where you get to see everyone.”
NASHUA, N.H., 11:42 a.m. — Typically, fourth graders are more interested in their Game Boys than the world of politics, but here in New Hampshire, even the young’uns get a chance to vote.
Virginia Drew, the Director of the Visitor’s Center at the Concord statehouse for more than twelve years, has pioneered a voting scheme which gives interested children the change to flex their political muscles in the voting booth.
“Fourth graders here in New Hampshire are very savvy,” she said in an interview Tuesday, “and so they came in and they cast their ballots today and yesterday — we allowed them to be first of the first in the nation.”
160 students cast ballots in the primary elections and, although the results are not officially released, “it’s always fun to see how close the kid’s results are to where the state’s are,” she said.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., 11:22 p.m. — In an interview with the pollster John Zogby, the comedian Jon Stewart is discussing on “The Daily Show” the failure of the polls in New Hampshire.
Zogby said the polls were proven wrong because so many voters did not decide for whom to vote until election day. Stewart asked him whether pollsters could have predicted that in advance. Zogby replied that while only a few percent of people polled said they were “undecided,” many were only “soft” supporters of Obama or Clinton, and that should have been a sign that the race was far from over.
Zogby said that point might not have been stressed enough to the media when the polls were announced over the past few days.
“Do the numbers just come in and [journalists] just go, ’41 – 28, my God!’?” Stewart asked incredulously.
The crowd laughed, and the interview moved on. But, Stewart was right! For better or for worse, that’s exactly how it happens.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., 2:31 p.m. — In New Hampshire, Senator Barack Obama seemed to be the darling of students, who flocked to his rallies and cheered for him as if he were a rock star. To young people, he was supposed to be a candidate who represented a new generation of politics, a voice for change standing up for them in a way no other candidate could, or wanted to.
And, sure enough, young people in the Granite State turned out en masse for Obama yesterday. But an analysis of exit polls reveals that while Obama indisputably dominated New Hampshire’s youth vote, he captured significantly less of it then he did in Iowa. And as Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 enjoyed heavy support from women across the state, a much larger demographic, there went the primary.
HANOVER, N.H., 12:51 p.m. — Today might as well be a holiday at Dartmouth College.
With presidential elections — and the primaries that go with them — coming once every four years, Dartmouth students typically get only one opportunity in their college lifetime to experience the spectacle that is the New Hampshire primary.
For the university’s 4,000 undergraduates, today is that one chance — and the buzz around campus is unmistakable. All day, Dartmouth students poured out of the polling place at Hanover High School. As they walked back to campus, the chatter about the different candidates seemed almost non-stop.
The visits to Dartmouth have also been non-stop. Virtually every candidate has stopped in at Dartmouth at least once, and a televised debate was held here in the fall.
As recently as last night, President Bill Clinton LAW ’73 and Senator John McCain both came to speak at Dartmouth, and Senator Barack Obama held a massive rally on campus this morning. The politicians brought backup, too: the comedian Larry David is also hanging around, stumping for Obama. Arianna Huffington is here, too.
But students said the allure of the primary comes from more than just the celebrity visitors. Out-of-state students like sophomore Marcus Gadson, of Indianapolis, register to vote here because of the New Hampshire primary’s impact on narrowing down the field of presidential candidates.
Since Gadson’s home state will not choose its candidates until May 6, he said he felt his vote did not count for much there. But here, it is coveted.
“That’s one of the great perks of going to Dartmouth,” he said on the way to cast his vote.
Return tomorrow for extended coverage of primary day at Dartmouth. For now, we are headed to catch Mike Huckabee as he visits a nearby polling place, and then it’s off to the Obama headquarters in Nashua to watch the returns as they come in.
HENNIKER, N.H., 1 p.m. — For the people of this small town of Henniker, politics is more than something for pundits and politicians. Active participants in this microcosm of American democracy stand outside the local schoolhouse urging passers-by to vote on this beautiful primary day.
“This is the way politics should be,” said Cathy Calob, the Edwards supporter. “It really gives us hope that (the) candidates will listen and represent us. My daughter’s in 8th grade, and even she’s getting involved.”
GERMANTOWN, Tenn., 11:13 a.m. — Hillary Clinton is struggling to lock in the votes of a demographic that American may have once thought was a given — women, especially the younger ones.
CNN reported this morning that in their latest New Hampshire polls, Clinton trails Barack Obama by two percentage points among women in the state.
Why is Clinton losing her female following? Turns out it’s another generation gap. Younger women, who have not personally experienced discrimination because of their sex, don’t see the importance and urgency of electing a women president this time around, CNN reports. They’re convinced if it doesn’t happen this time, then it will in four years, or even eight.
And some older women are simply turned off by the idea of a woman in such a “nontraditional” role. Instead, they see promise in Obama’s relationship-oriented, coalition-building message, rather than Clinton’s experience and assertiveness. While some women do admire her for her strength, more want to see a more spontaneous, candid, emotional Clinton.
So how will Hillary’s aggressiveness be viewed among New Hampshire’s women? We’ll see in about nine hours.
The comedian Larry David, left, with Arianna Huffington, right, at Senator Barack Obama’s rally at Dartmouth College on Tuesday morning.
HANOVER, N.H., 10:08 a.m. — During Senator Barack Obama’s speech to students this morning, a student in the middle of the crowd suddenly collapsed, bringing the excited rally to a startling halt.
Obama noticed immediately and stopped his speech while paramedics tended to the student. The rally was delayed for 20 minutes until the student was carried out of the gymnasium here.
Moments later, the comedian Larry David — who is stumping in New Hampshire for Obama — emerged from the back of the room and pushed up to the crowd. “Sinatra used to have that effect on people!” he yelled.
SEABROOK, N.H., 5:19 a.m. — After months of campaigning and millions of dollars spent on television ads, primary day is finally here. And boy, is it a beauty.
Temperatures in Manchester are supposed to reach 60 degrees today, which should encourage turnout. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting that a record 500,000 people out of the Granite State’s 830,000 registered voters will head to the polls today.