I lived in New Hampshire during the 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns.
The TL;dr on this blog post is that I loved that experience, and that’s why I am up here now, getting up close (close-ish, anyway) and personal with the 2016 candidates.
The whole story, in case you are curious …
In ’88, Bob Dole spoke at my boarding school, which I have to think was more about the parents of some of the students—undoubtedly big donors—than the student body, most of whom couldn’t vote.
We were required to attend, so the auditorium was full. Only one part of what was a fairly anodyne speech sticks in my mind. Making the case that his experience, especially his military experience, qualified him to be commander-in-chief, he was going through a litany of what could go wrong in the world.
In those times, what could go wrong generally meant what could go wrong in the USSR.
Dole’s speech rose to what was clearly its crescendo moment. Voice and fist raised, he warned us about “the godless communists.”
And we laughed.
Because we were 15, 16, and 17. We weren’t boomers who’d ducked and covered. We were Gen-X Macintosh users who knew that the only way to win global thermonuclear war was not to play.
We laughed. He looked baffled.
We also had a mock debate between students representing candidates. A relative of George H. W. Bush spoke for his side; someone else was convinced to play Michael Dukakis. I remember thinking how benighted the faculty were, as they’d voted overwhelmingly for Dukakis.
Ninety percent or so of students voted for Bush. I did, I’m quite sure. I didn’t know much (or care much) about politics, but superficially, I felt I had a ton in common with the Bush clan. Houston connections, for one, like going to the same church. I had relatives who lived in the same vacation towns in both Maine and Florida where the Bushes summered and wintered, and my family had moved to the same Connecticut town where he grew up (the reason I was in boarding school).
How different things were in 1992!
I knew plenty about politics, and cared a great deal, and could not believe that someone who shared as much in common with me as President Bush did could be so backward when it came to reproductive rights. I’m pretty sure there’s an FBI file with all of my letters to him, excoriating him for abandoning bedrock Goldwater Republican principles.
I saw every candidate that year, Republican and Democrat. I had lunch with Pat Buchanan, who was delightful and terrifying all at the same time.
I also dined with Paul Tsongas, who had attended my college. What a thoughtful, compelling candidate he was, an assessment many people agreed with in New Hampshire, and almost no one did after he left the state.
Bob Kerry and Tom Harkin were both perfectly engaging. Jerry Brown, a little odd.
I had already cast my ballot, since I voted absentee in a town about an hour away from school, when I waited in a hot box of a room for almost 3 hours for Bill Clinton to arrive. Four people had passed out by the time he showed up. It was late, he barely had any voice left, and he was riveting. RIVETING.
I asked him a question, a total softball about abortion rights. He gave met the Clinton treatment: he answered, looking right at me, but then went on to expand on his answer, as if he could intuit the follow-up questions someone less star-struck than I was at that point might have come up with.
The magnetism people talk about? Very, very real. Electically so. I called the clerk in my town the next morning to let him know I’d be coming to re-claim my mail-in ballot so I could change my vote. It was pretty upsetting to learn that I couldn’t actually change it.
I missed voting for him in the primary, but did so in the general, when it counted. I didn’t campaign for him. I did put in some canvassing and tabling time with a pro-choice Republican candidate from Vermont (because of course) whom I’d met during the convention that summer.
That convention—wow. Anyone in Houston remember the pink Cadillac convertible doing Klan Watch?
Clearly, I caught the bug. NH spoils you, though. You dare to think that candidates should have to show up and prove that they really do deserve your vote.
I love Houston, and don’t want to leave, but I sure would like to see a presidential candidate without having to donate the maximum. (I’ve never donated the maximum, SO STOP EMAILING ME, and you know who you are.)
So, I’m up in New Hampshire to see who I can see. So far, Bernie, Clinton, Rubio, Jeb!, and Kasich. Hoping to check off Cruz and maybe Christie tomorrow. Honestly, not sure I could stand to go see Trump, but never say never.
I’m tweeting as I go, and as I am able, using #BORinNH, since I’ll be blogging more about it on Burnt Orange Report.
The saying is that signs don’t vote, but I have been checking out signs. Plenty of Trumps, and a surprising number of Carly Fiorina. I’ve seen several Rand Pauls and Marco Rubios, and plenty of Jeb!, Hillary, and Bernie signs. Kasich signs here and there. Even a Carson.
There’s one candidate sign I’ve not seen.
Not a one.
I sure hope NH isn’t smelling what Cruz is cooking, and they shut him out on Tuesday.
My brother, a New Hampshire small business owner, predicts: Trump, Rubio, then Bush/Christie or Christie/Bush in the 1-4 slots, then Kasich and probably Carly, and Cruz really far back. Let’s hope as far as Cruz goes.
On the GOP side, right now, I’d put Bush ahead of Rubio and Christie, if I thought that voters were reasonable. On the D side, I and about a half dozen people I spoke with today think it’ll be tighter than predicted. We wondered what effect, if any, the North Korean launch will have.
Hope to see you over on the Tweeters while this is going on!
And, if you want the rest of the story, 3 posts on Burnt Orange Report about my experience this year: