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.
— Thomas Kaplan