January 27, 2004

Students Contribute to Campaigns

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LACONIA, N.H. — As New Hampshire Democrats and independents vote in the first presidential primary today, the rest of America will tune in to national news networks and observe the next chapter of a race that has become much more dynamic in recent weeks.

Many voters are mesmerized by a race which they feel consists of virtually identical Democratic platforms which attack the Bush administration’s domestic and foreign policies, as well as a host of other defining features. These include warm and fuzzy debates between candidates, an often-mocked and -analyzed Iowa concession speech that has evoked comparisons to the WWE, an unanticipated outcome in last week’s Iowa caucuses and a tearful withdrawal from candidacy by a Washington veteran.

Intrigued by the race, its key players and its recent moments of notoriety, I traveled to New Hampshire last weekend so that I could perhaps acquire first-hand insight into what it is to be a New Hampshire voter at this point in the campaign, as well as to understand what it takes to volunteer for a candidate during the first primary of the race.

I arrived at a John Edwards base in Laconia, N.H., last Friday evening and introduced myself to some campaign employees and volunteers. Confident that I had journeyed farther than anyone else in the room, I was soon humbled to learn the distances traveled by other Edwards volunteers. While some, like John and Sandy Mucci, were local supporters, others had, like me, traveled to Laconia from upstate New York, and yet others, such as Trip Helms, had left homes that were as far away as Charlotte, N.C. When I asked Helms, a local school board member and a distant relative of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), why he had trekked all the way to frigid New Hampshire, he underscored how pleased he was with Edwards as his senator.

As a member of the local government, Helms recalled Edwards’ pleasant dealings with his school district, saying, “He listened to what we wanted