I have heard the words “old-fashioned, grassroots campaigning” in the last three days more times than I ever have in my life. The phrase has come from the mouths of both Republicans and Democrats, people of great importance and people who are simply a volunteer like myself. When we arrived in Manchester on Sunday, I had no idea what to expect, but after being here for almost a full week now, I am starting to grasp just how unique the political situation is in New Hampshie. We have been to several different events in the last few days including town hall meetings for both Ted Cruz and Christ Christie, as well as an event led by Chelsea Clinton. All three of these people specifically mentioned the importance of grassroots campaigning which includes lots of door knocking and phone banking to try to reach people on a more personal level. Having lived my entire life in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, in places that are very suburban and spread out, the concept of grassroots campaigining was rather foreign to me. I understood what it meant, but I had little experience with how it was used. On my first time door knocking (also known as canvassing), the second door we tried opened up on a rather burly, moustached man in his 50s. He was a firey independent who, when asked whether he planned to vote, claimed to have been voting religiously since the age of eighteen. He proceeded to invite us into the entryway of his home and we talked politics over the next twenty minutes. He was an undecided voter which at this point, 26 days away from the New Hampshire primary elections, was a relatively common position, but what made him unique was the fact that he was one of the most passionate and informed people I have met in regards to politics. I am not sure whether we managed to sway him to supporting our side, but I do know that we made a personal connection, which is what campaigning in New Hampshire is all about. The conversation we had that day inspired myself, my two fellow canvassers, and the man we spoke to about the importance of politics and of being an informed voter. The voters in New Hampshire understand the importance of their first-in-the-nation primary and they are willing to take the time to think about and build their opinions. This is a very exciting part in the history of the country to be a part of, and everyone here in New Hampshire gets to be right in the midst of it. It is palpable; we all cannot wait to see what the outcome of the primary turns out to be.
~Aleah Maas is a St. Olaf sophomore from Delafield, WI majoring in Political Science. She is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the 2016 presidential primary elections.