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