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Seeing politics from the front lines

As the Repub­lican pres­i­den­tial con­tenders engaged in a full-​​court press of cam­paigning ahead of today’s New Hamp­shire pri­mary, a group of 17 polit­ical sci­ence stu­dents were in the Granite State on Sunday to expe­ri­ence it first-​​hand. They trav­eled there with pro­fes­sors William Mayer, William Crotty and Suzanne Ogden, the interim chair of the polit­ical sci­ence depart­ment, to observe the cam­paigns of Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gin­grich and get a feel for the energy sur­rounding the lead-​​up to the vote. We talked to senior Nick Beek, the former pres­i­dent of the university’s Polit­ical Sci­ence Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion and cur­rent pres­i­dent of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Democ­rats, to dis­cuss what he observed.

Can you give a run-​​down of your day, from leaving Boston Sunday morning to the final cam­paign event?

We left campus around 9:30 in the morning, trav­eling first to Rochester, N.H., where Mitt Romney and his wife appeared at the Rochester Opera House with New Hamp­shire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and (Min­nesota) Gov. Tim Paw­lenty, who’d already endorsed Romney. Then we went to a Jon Huntsman event in a supporter’s house in Bed­ford, N.H. — the Romney event was pretty packed, but at Huntsman’s there was just no room. Finally, we went to a Newt Gin­grich event at a school in Derry, N.H. and by the time we left there we were too tired to do any­thing else.

What did you notice about each candidate’s cam­paigning styles?

I think Mitt Romney played to the crowd the most, focusing mostly on rhetoric, with lines that really felt engi­neered to get a pos­i­tive response — he was taking lines, at one point, from “America the Beau­tiful,” then talking about how great this country is, which I think is the eas­iest thing to do when you’re run­ning for president.

Huntsman and Gin­grich were a lot more focused on policy, though Gin­grich was much more neg­a­tive about the (Obama) admin­is­tra­tion than the others. As a Demo­crat myself, that was least appealing to me, just being unable to relate to those beliefs or those posi­tions. Jon Huntsman was far more policy-​​focused than Romney, and he really con­nected with the crowd by taking ques­tions and stop­ping to talk to people, so much so that his staff had to pull him out so he could get to his next event.

What was the most sig­nif­i­cant thing you took away from your day in New Hampshire?

I think as someone who has worked on cam­paigns — I’ve been involved in pol­i­tics for quite a few years now — it’s always good to see can­di­dates interact with voters. And even more, I always like to see people coming out to see can­di­dates. A lot of people take the right to vote for granted, with so many people finding some excuse or another not to get involve or cast a ballot. Just get­ting to see how many people came out to par­tic­i­pate, with each event drawing a crowd, was great. I think that’s really impres­sive, and I’m just hoping that con­tinues all across the pri­mary season and into the elec­tion this November.

– by Matt Collette

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