Tag Archives: Campaigning
January 17, 2008

New Hampshire Reflections

New Hampshire is Clark Country

No, not regarding the recent primary results. More like four years ago. I wrote a few blog entries while I was working in New Hampshire in 2004, but a recent “Can you believe it’s been four years already?” e-mail from a fellow campaign intern started me on this. I don’t have a candidate for this primary, as none of them appeal to me (yet), but all of the recent media coverage made me think, “Damn, I kinda miss that place.”

New Hampshire is Clark Country
Wishful thinking

I arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire on January 7, 2004, loaded down with a duffel bag stuffed with recently acquired winter gear and only a vague idea of what I would be doing for a month. Three of my friends from GW were waiting outside the security checkpoint, Clark signs in hand, to take me to campaign headquarters. They had spent part of their winter break working for the campaign and had sent back amazing reports of what it was like working “in the trenches” of a Presidential primary. I couldn’t wait to get out there.

Being in New Hampshire at that time was a political science major’s dream. This was the real deal, the ideal place for a political junkie fresh out of college. I was hardcore into politics while at George Washington University (naturally, with GW’s location, most GW students were), and spent a considerable amount of time with the College Democrats roaming the suburbs of Virginia and Maryland every weekend to drum up support for whatever Democratic candidate was running. Most of them lost. General Wesley Clark was my man for the 2004 Presidential primary, and I spent my last semester at GW working with GW for Clark and DC for Clark on various events and fundraisers. I had decided to graduate from GW a semester early, and, suddenly without a job, still awaiting a decision from LSE, and generally having no direction in life, I signed on as an intern for the Clark campaign in New Hampshire.

After checking in at campaign headquarters, and then becoming sidetracked with a flat tire in the freezing cold weather, we arrived at the campaign housing, affectionately known as the “slophouse.” It was a two bedroom, one bath apartment that was completely devoid of furniture and contained only a few moldy kitchen appliances. There were about 20 people living there, with suitcases, sleeping bags, and other personal items strewn throughout the apartment. It was a difficult place to sleep, what with the hardwood floors, unreliable heating, and dozens of people snoring loudly. Compared to this, my dorm room back in Moscow was like a suite at the Ritz Carlton.

Early next morning we were back at headquarters with little to do except drink coffee and eat Dunkin’ Donuts. Too many interns, not enough assignments to go around. Field office directors were in Manch that day, loading up on supplies and trolling for volunteers to man their understaffed offices. A director from the Lakes Region asked me if I’d be willing to work up there. I was a bit hesitant, considering that Manch was the epicenter of the state’s political activity, but HQ was overrun with interns who had nothing to do, and the promise of a comfortable bed sealed the deal (I’m easily swayed by certain comforts).

And what a bed it was. I graduated from the “Slophouse” to “Clarkingham Palace”, a large 18th- century farmhouse in Alton Bay that served as a vacation rental during the warmer summer months. Along with a field director, there were four of us interns living there, and we each had our own bedroom with a nice full-size bed, in addition to a TV, full kitchen, laundry, and maid service – definitely the nicest accommodations I’ve ever had while on a campaign, and a refreshing place to crash after a long day of work.

Belgian draft horse at Alton Bay farmhouse
It really was a farmhouse

Our Laconia office was staffed by two full-time field directors, four interns, and a retired couple who drove up from Georgia to lend a hand for a few weeks. We had a lot of help from the locals, who came in to the office to assist with phone banking, letter writing, and occasionally feeding us delicious home-cooked meals. A few college groups drove up on weekends, but they were practically useless, as they spent most of their time on “breaks” getting drunk at Applebee’s and roaming the aisles of the New Hampshire state liquor store.

Updating the voter database
Updating the MS Access voter database – the less glamorous side of campaign work

Phone banking
Phone banking, even worse

The work we performed was more or less the typical assignments you encounter on any campaign (phone banking, visibility, lit drops, etc) and we worked 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week out of the field office in Laconia, about a half hour drive from the farmhouse. I subsisted primarily on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Mountain Dew, and Clark Bars (get it?) and found myself performing incredibly bizarre (to me, at least) activities, like pounding gigantic 4×8 signs into frozen snow and lugging 20 gallons of pancake mix around the Belknap Mill. When the temperature was tolerable (i.e, not in the negatives) we were loaded down with pamphlets and American Son DVDs (the short documentary on Clark) and handed neighborhood maps. We were supposed to knock on the doors of registered voters and hand all this stuff out. If I lived in New Hampshire, I’d probably get pretty sick of all these out of state people knocking on my door, but they were all very friendly. Some of them mentioned I looked really cold and invited me in for hot chocolate or coffee. I was a bit shocked, as we don’t generally invite random door-knocking strangers into our houses back in California, and the whole thing seemed to be the making of a horrible Lifetime movie.

“Are you people CRAZY?!” I wanted to shout at them. “I could be an axe murder. Do you think I’m crazy? You could be an axe murderer! But please, take this free Clark DVD and consider voting for the General.”

Stolen Howard Dean propaganda
Managed to acquire some Howard Dean propaganda while on a lit drop

Sign making
Putting those kindergarten coloring skills to use

That month in New Hampshire was the coldest weather I had ever experienced in my life. Temperatures often dipped into the negatives, and it got to the point where 20 degrees seemed like a warm, brisk temperature. As someone who grew up in an area where winter temperatures averaged in the 70s, I was completely fascinated by the place. How could someone live in this weather, year after year? Why doesn’t everyone just pack up and move to Arizona? And what’s with all the shrinkwrapped boats?

The region that we were responsible for included Lake Winnipesaukee, which covers 69 square miles of New Hampshire. Every day we would pass hundreds of boats that had been pulled out of the now frozen lake and shrinkwrapped in a blue plastic material. It’s not something you see in San Diego or Orange County, so I found it intriguing. While on a lit drop one day, I nearly drove Paul crazy, as I would not shut up about the shrinkwrapped boats. “Dude, that looks so weird! How do you think they do that?!” At one point, he turned the car down a side road and stopped in front of a boat repair and supply center. “I am sick of hearing about this shrinkwrapping! Get out of the car!” Inside the store were three older guys talking about…well, probably boats, I guess. They eyed us suspiciously and asked if we needed anything.

“Well, go ahead and ask them!”

“Yeah, uh, I was just wondering…how do you shrinkwrap boats?”

They explained the process (it apparently involves a heat gun of some sort) and then asked where we were from. Obviously, if I was asking about shrinkwrapping boats I couldn’t have been a local, and the Clark button outed me as yet another carpetbagging campaign worker.

“California, near Palm Springs.”

“Palm Springs, eh? I hear it’s nothin’ but rich people out there. That true?”

“Uh, no. Well, we should probably get back to work. Thanks!”

They were dyed in the wool Republicans, anyways. There was no use in trying to convert them.

New Hampshire debate rally
Rallying outside the candidate’s debate

In addition to lit drops, phone banking, and visibility we were usually planning and staffing events meant to introduce the candidate to local voters. This is when our schedules were the most intense, but at the same time it was the most enjoyable part of working on the campaign. One day, we were out of the house at 6am to plant a ton of Clark ’04 signs along the highway and then off to the Belknap Mill to prep for the pancake breakfast that Clark was speaking at. Do you have any idea how much time it takes to make pancakes for 300 hungry voters? A LOT. Immediately after the breakfast we headed to the Holderness Central School to do setup for a “Conversation with Clark” town hall event, and following that, we were off to another Clark rally with 2,000 in attendance. By the end of the day I could recite his stump speech word for word.

Pancake breakfast prep
Pancake breakfast prep

Pembroke Rally
Met up with Jon, Chad, and Marcus at the Pembroke rally while they were on a campaign trip with GW for Clark

Our final event with Clark was held the evening before the primary. He was following a grueling schedule that would have him swinging through all ten of New Hampshire’s counties to thank his supporters and sway any undecided voters. Each field office was tasked with securing a location for the event, building an attendees list, and taking care of all the logistics. We decided to hold our event, for whatever reason, at the farmhouse we had been living in for the past month, and crammed a large group of locals and members of the press into the first floor of the house.

Group with General Clark
“Dude, the General’s coming to the farmhouse? Guess I should make my bed.”

Later that night, as we were driving back from the office (yes, it was back to the office for a few hours of work after the farmhouse event) we heard over the radio that Clark had won Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, the two small towns in New Hampshire where the polls open at midnight and close several minutes later after the dozen or so residents have cast their votes. We took it as a very positive sign and a possible foreshadowing of the next day’s results (especially considering that only a few minutes prior to that, the local radio was playing Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, our unofficial campaign song).

It was not to be so, however. After a long and final day of last minute phone calls and visibility in single digit temperatures, we drove down to Manch for the rally with Clark. After all our work, Clark placed third, ahead of John Edwards only by the skin of his teeth. I was disappointed, of course, but even more so than usual (by that time I had become accustomed to working for losing candidates) because out of all the candidates I’ve worked for, he was the only one I’ve ever truly admired. Clark was a brilliant man, but he wasn’t a seasoned politician and was hampered by several missteps and infighting that plagued the early days of the campaign. That following morning I caught a flight back to California. The campaign moved on to South Carolina, hoping for a strong finish in that Southern state’s February 3rd primary. Many of Clark’s supporters remained optimistic following the results in New Hampshire, and I tried to be as well, but as I sat in the terminal waiting for my flight home, I felt that the campaign was over for us. Two weeks later, it officially was.

January 29, 2004

Goodbye, dear old Granite State

I’m back in Palm Desert, California…should I mention that it’s 75 degrees right now? Yeah, that’s right…no more long johns, fleece, or snow boots for Lindsay!

Anyways, my last days in New Hampshire were a lot of fun. The office was full of volunteers the weekend before the election, so we were able to do tons of phone calling, canvassing, and visibility. On a side note, the difference between the weekenders and fulltimers is pretty amusing. We got a van full of college kids from New York, and they would not stop talking about how they were going to the NH State Liquor Store to buy tons of alcohol and get plastered. Then they would take a 2 hour break during prime calling hours to go to Applebee’s for dinner and drinks…we were 3 days away from the primary! Focus, people, focus! Oh well…they did some work, so they weren’t completely useless.

On Monday we did some last minute lit dropping and canvassing. Laura, Paul, and I were sent to drop lit and DVD packets in an area a few minutes north of Laconia. The houses were pretty far apart, so we just drove from house to house and dropped the DVDs on doorsteps. The houses we were dropping at were right on a huge lake (don’t remember the name of it…maybe it was Lake Winnipesaukee) and I remarked how interesting it was that all the boats were shrinkwrapped. Laura and I started wondering how exactly you go about shrinkwrapping a boat, and Paul got so annoyed by the discussion that he drove us to a marina office so we could learn about shrinkwrapping boats. The guy inside the office explained the process…turns out they use a big heat gun. You learn something new every day…

Later that evening we returned to the farmhouse because General and Mrs. Clark were coming to visit. The Clarks were on a one day 10 county tour of New Hampshire, and were stopping at our farmhouse in Alton to greet local supporters and volunteers. The press bus proved to be a minor annoyance, as for some reason the driver didn’t go where we were directing him towards, and he succeeded in tying up traffic while he tried to execute a turn on a small country road. This local guy was really annoyed that he couldn’t get home and wanted to know what the hell was going on, so we told him. Laura says she saw him inside the house later, so it’s possible that a disgruntled motorist was converted to a Clark supporter. Once we got the Clarks and press inside the house, we went in to listen to Clark speak. There were about 50+ people crammed into the dining area/kitchen area. Probably the most hilarious part of that evening was when Clark was coming towards Laura and I but Laura was turned the other way and he tapped her on the shoulder…she turned around and was like “Oh!”…I guess you had to be there, but it was great. Clark then made a really short speech (maybe 3-5 mins or so…a shortened version of his stump speech) and then Deanna (the wonderful local supporter that handed her lovely farmhouse over to us volunteers, and invited us to her other house to watch the Iowa caucuses and enjoy some delicious homemade pizza and steamed mussels…she rocks!) stood up by Clark to make a short speech. She thanked him for running and then started talking about Tom, Joel, Mike, and myself (the 4 full time interns at the office) and how we worked late into the night to get Clark the nomination, were very dedicated to the campaign etc etc…they were some very nice remarks. After the speeches, General and Mrs. Clark came into the living room to meet with just us volunteers for about 10 minutes. It was kind of surreal…here we were chatting with the Clarks in the living room where we were staying. Usually during the evening we kick back, eat some dinner, and watch C-SPAN or Blind Date (yeah, don’t laugh…there is not much of a selection late at night), but that evening we were having a nice discussion with General Clark. Mrs. Clark is awesome, too…she will make a great First Lady.

Later that night we learned that Clark won Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, which was pretty cool. Guess what song was playing on the car radio as the residents of Dixville Notch cast their ballots…”Hey Ya” by Outkast!

On the day of the primary we performed the usual GOTV (get out the vote) tasks…calling people and reminding them to vote…doing viz outside the polling places, etc. After the polls closed we headed down to Manchester, went to the rally, had some dinner, and then headed to the hotel we were staying at. I headed out the next morning…luckily the snowfall wasn’t too heavy and my plane was able to get out of NH. The campaign said they were shooting for 3rd place, and that’s what we got, so I guess that’s alright, but I really wish we could have pulled a 2nd place showing.

If you ever get the chance to work on a Presidential primary in NH, don’t pass it up. It’s hard work, long hours (12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week) but you will have so much fun doing your job, and you’ll be working for a candidate you actually believe in. Where else but New Hampshire would you be able to have a 10 minute meeting with your candidate without having to donate $2,000? The citizens of NH love being “first in the nation” no matter how much they may complain about all the phone calls they get from the different candidates. They are extremely nice up there…for instance we were out doing viz and some random lady got out of her car and handed out cups of hot chocolate she bought at Dunkin Donuts for us…that was much appreciated. The local supporters are wonderful people…handing over their houses and apartments so volunteers could live there…cooking us pasta and lasagna for dinner…dropping a few pizzas by the office for lunch…bringing donuts in the morning…basically making sure we were being taken care of.

In closing, my 3 weeks in New Hampshire were absolutely amazing. I’ll have some pictures up soon…I only brought a disposable camera with me, but Laura and the other volunteers took a lot of pics with their digital cameras, so I should be posting those in the days to come.

January 27, 2004

D-Day

Today’s the day….who will come out on top?

I’ve got some cool stories about General and Mrs. Clark hanging out at the farmhouse with us…I’ll post them when I get back to CA. Not much time here…need to get out the vote. We are spending the day in the Lakes Region and then heading down to Manch tonight to join up with all the other Clark supporters. My plane leaves around 11am tomorrow…I can’t wait to get back to the warm weather of Palm Desert.

January 25, 2004

Rally ’round the 4×8, comrades!

Greetings from the Granite State…not much time to write anything, but here’s something…

Anyone see the debate on Thursday? Did you see me mixing it up with the Kerry supporters outside the debate? The place was a damn circus…I loved it. Kerry had his supporters parade down the street to the entrance of the debate. There were tons of them (including bagpipers and Kerry’s bus, the “Real Deal Express”). The Clark and Dean supporters joined together and mounted an offensive against the Kerry parade. We charged uphill with our signs and crashed into the parade. The media loved it.


We’ve been doing a lot of canvassing, which is great when it’s 10 degrees outside and some moron didn’t clear the snow off the sidewalks. NH has been great, though. The local supporters are awesome and cook us dinner and help us out a ton.

Clark is coming to the farmhouse tomorrow night…I guess I better clean up my room and make my bed…I’m being serious, too.

January 18, 2004

Pancakes with Wes

Have I mentioned how great it is to be in New Hampshire for the primaries?

We had 3 Clark events on Saturday, so we were out of the house at 6am to put up tons of road signs and do event setup. The weather was a balmy 20 degrees, which is actually pretty warm compared to the temps of the past few days.

Event #1 – Pancake Breakfast


See that apron Clark is wearing? Yeah, we took turns trying it on the night before the event…

The pancake breakfast was held in downtown Laconia at the Belknap mill. Around 300 people showed up to enjoy some pancakes and ask General Clark some questions. Before Clark spoke to the crowd, he did the obligatory flipping of pancakes for the press in the kitchen. After Clark made a few pancakes, he offered them to the volunteers and members of the press that were in the room. It was great…I was served pancakes by the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Now how many people can say that?


Mmmm…pancakes cooked by the General.

Event #2 – Town Hall Meeting
The next event was a “Conversation with Clark” at the Holderness Central School.


Over 500 people showed up to the school (which is literally in the middle of nowhere) to watch “American Son”, listen to Clark speak for a few minutes, and then ask him questions. Prior to the event we were out doing some visibilty so people could find the place, and I was standing off to the side of the entrance to the school building greeting the attendees and propping up one of the Clark 4×8 foot signs, when I noticed that General Clark and his entourage had arrived. They were heading towards the entrance when Clark made a detour and came over to shake my hand and thank me for my work. I love Clark…what a guy! The event itself went very well…I’ve heard Clark’s stump speech so many times that I can practically recite it.

Event #3 – All-America Day Rally





The final event was the All-America Day Rally, which reminded me a lot of a high school pep rally, except this time we weren’t cheering for the Aztecs – we were cheering for General Clark. Over 2,000 people packed a high school gym to listen to Michael Moore speak about why he is endorsing Clark, and then hear from the General himself. The rally was awesome…it was great to see so much energy in one room, and Moore did a great job of firing up the crowd. Afterwards, Moore autographed my Clark04 sign, so I’ve got a pretty cool souvenir from my time in NH. I also got to see Chad, Marcus, Jon, and Amy, which was cool.




OK, back to work…

January 13, 2004

Back to the negative temps

Damn, I’m tired. We left the farmhouse at 7:30 to do some rush hour visibility, then spent some time putting up 2 huge 4×8 ft Clark signs, which is fun to do when the temp is in the 20s, its snowing, and the ground is practically frozen. Twenty degrees actually isn’t too bad…we were lucky to have this warm spell so we could get a lot of outdoor activities done. It’s back to the negative temps for the next 3 days, though, and 9am tomorrow it’s supposed to “feel like -35″….ooooh fun.

We’ve got Clark for 2 events on Saturday – a town hall meeting and pancake breakfast – so we are building a crowd for that and getting a lot of positive responses (even from a large number of Republicans). It’s funny – the people here get really excited when you tell them Wes will be flipping pancakes.

I’m so glad I decided to come up to NH for 3 weeks…it’s so exciting here. The weather could be a tad bit warmer though (see, I told you I was going to complain about the weather).

January 11, 2004

11 degrees! Time for some lit drops!

clark_bars.jpg

clark_bars.jpg

It was warm today…around 11 degrees. I never thought I’d say 11 degrees is warm, but compared to the temps of the past few days, it truly is. I look upon this weather as a way of preparing for the long Russian winters I’ll be living in when I am doing research for my PhD (or maybe not).

We did some lit drops today since it was “warm”, and tomorrow we’ll be doing some visibility and canvassing. We usually work from 9:30am to 10 or 11pm, depending on what needs to be done, then catch a late dinner and head back to the farmhouse for some sleep.

Clark will be in the Lakes Region on the 17th…looking forward to hearing him speak again. I loved the last town hall meeting. Seeing a packed house nodding in agreement with Clark’s answer to a question is a beautiful sight. I think the support for Clark is really picking up…talking to voters and such, we are getting a lot of Dean and Kerry people switching to Clark. I’ve even talked to a few Republicans that say they will be voting for Clark in the general election. Awesome.

Oh yeah, GW starts tomorrow…lucky me I’m not there.

January 9, 2004

From the Slophouse to Clarkingham Palace

So, I’m in New Hampshire and it’s extremely cold…we’re talking negative temperatures here.

I was greeted in Manchester by Chad, Jon, and Marcus, who came to the airport with Clark signs in hand. We went to the Clark headquarters to meet everyone and then headed off to the volunteer apartment. On our way to the apartment, the car got a flat tire, so we stood around freezing while Jon put the spare on. We finally got to the apartment and uhhh well….it was interesting. Its nickname is the “slophouse”, which fits it quite well. There was no furniture and there were about 20 people on the 3rd floor (the campaign rented out floors 1 and 3 of a house) with one bathroom for all of us. The hardwood floors weren’t very fun to sleep on, and Chad and Marcus snore quite loudly…so loudly, in fact, that it drove a majority of people on the 3rd floor to leave and find a place to sleep on the 1st floor. I had brought earplugs along, though, so I didn’t mind it too much.

The next morning we went to the HQ and one of the volunteer coordinators asked me if I would go to the Laconia field office and work up there. I said sure, why not, grabbed my stuff, and now I’m up here in Laconia. The place we are living at is awesome. It’s a late 18th century colonial house that usually serves as an inn, but for the duration of the campaign it’s being used to house volunteers. I’ve got my own bedroom with a nice comfortable double bed…yeah, this is a lot better than Manchester!

Last night we saw General Clark speak at Concord High School…he was great, as usual, and the place was packed.

I should probably get back to work…

January 7, 2004

Old New Hampshire Grand and Great, We will sing of Old New Hampshire, Of the dear old Granite State

battle_nh.gif

battle_nh.gif

Today I’m leaving the wonderful Palm Springs weather to spend 3 weeks in New Hampshire working for General Clark’s campaign.
I had to buy tons of fleece, some snow boots, long underwear…all that fun cold weather gear. Thursday’s weather – High: 18 degrees F, Low: 0 degrees F….AWESOME!!! :-/

I decided against taking the Russian cold weather army hat because…well…it’s just too ridiculous looking. Also, the Soviet emblem may offend some people.

NH should be fun…Chad and Marcus are up there right now…Jon will be up there tomorrow…Amy will be there in a few days…Lauren will be up there for a week…and on January 16-19, my comrades from GW for Clark (and AU, and Georgetown) will be up there.

So I guess I will post some updates when I’m up there…I’ll probably complain about the cold weather a lot…compared to NH, DC weather is tropical.

You can contact me via e-mail or call me on my cell.

Oh yeah, last night I went to my first meetup for Clark in the Coachella Valley. There were 25+ people that showed up, which I was impressed with because the Coachella Valley is a political wasteland. It was nice to talk to people about Clark…almost like being back in DC (ah DC, I actually do miss you). There were also about 5 people there who had donated money to Dean, gone to his meetups, etc and are now on Clark’s side…..yeeeeeah!