MANCHESTER, N.H. In a small state like New Hampshire, where over a dozen candidates were still running for president as of just a few weeks ago, where do you hang the “Help Wanted” sign for the many bodies you need to assist you in your bid for the White House?
Next door of course, in Massachusetts, where we regularly produce presidential candidates and also campaign volunteers.
Maura Pensak, of Cambridge, has been making phone calls since August, recruiting neighbors to drive the hour north and help out with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in New Hampshire. She says there’s a group of about 60 regulars, and when we met her at a Clinton field office in Hampton over the weekend, about 30 Cambridged-based volunteers had come along.
“For the past two months, folks have been coming up every weekend day and sometimes during the week,” Pensak said. “We know that Cambridge to Hampton equals Hillary to the White House, so we’re there.”
These are just regular folks, but plenty of notables have come to New Hampshire as well. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is also with Clinton, as is the Massachusetts congressional delegation — like Rep. Mike Capuano, who we ran into on the New Hampshire seacoast as he was campaigning for Clinton.
“She’s pretty close to me philosophically,” Capuano told us when we asked why he made the trip north. “I also made an assessment, in my opinion, who has the best likelihood of winning. Not just a primary, what’s important is winning the final, and I think that Hillary has the best chance of doing that and being the most effective president we can put on the scene right now.”
In Manchester, we met a volunteer from central Massachusetts who would probably disagree.
William Kilmer, 64, of Worcester, has a big, rust-colored mustache and was wearing a “Feel the Bern” T-shirt for Bernie Sanders. He certainly knew his way around the Sanders’ field office, directing newbie volunteers to the restrooms and offering to team-up with a first-time canvasser.
Kilmer says he’s been making the drive to New Hampshire to support a candidate he believes could be transformational.
“I’m here to spend a couple of hours knocking on doors for Bernie to turn out the vote, that’s what I do,” Kilmer said. “I’ve been coming up every weekend for the last month to do canvassing. I have been in Manchester once before, I was in Keene once, I was in Milford once.”
When he was explaining to us just how motivated he is to help Sanders, Kilmer actually got a bit emotional and teared up.
On the Republican side, the nation’s most popular governor, Charlie Baker, has endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, praising Christie for being able to work across the aisle with Democrats in New Jersey.
Baker joined Christie over the weekend for one campaign appearance in Bedford, New Hampshire.
Putting in a lot more hours in New Hampshire, 18-year-old Elizabeth Fournier, of Seekonk, says she’s been pulling 12-hour days knocking on doors and making phone calls for the Ted Cruz campaign.
Fournier works weekends, so every Monday through Friday for weeks now she’s been staying at “Camp Cruz,” a dormitory setting for Cruz volunteers in Chester, New Hampshire.
“I’ve been back and forth ever since they started with the dorms for the last five weeks,” she said. “I really love it. I’m willing to give up my time and do whatever I can to make Ted Cruz the next president of the United States.”
Considering Massachusetts has three times more registered Democrats than Republicans, it’s not surprising we met more blues volunteering in New Hampshire than reds.
That includes a group of 61 Harvard students called the Harvard College Democrats. This group wasn’t supporting a single candidate, in fact they were pretty evenly split between Sanders and Clinton. Yet they a rode a bus together to Nashua.
Harvard College Democrats campaign director Gabe Hodgkin addressed the students before they set out to knock on doors.
“This is about you guys and this is about the people you’re talking to today,” he said. “It’s not about electing a specific person. The only way to make change is through conversations and through organizing and mobilizing people — so let’s go knock some doors!”
In Massachusetts we proudly say politics is our sport, but sometimes it’s just about democracy — which every four years we get to help practice on a national scale next door in New Hampshire.