Brian J. Mendel ’15 knocked on the front door, and, after waiting a few moments, jammed a Vote Obama flyer into the door’s handle, other pamphlets already crammed there.
“Welcome to the life of a New Hampshire voter,” he said.
Last weekend, about 35 Harvard students drove an hour and a half to Rochester, New Hampshire, hoping to secure votes for President Barack Obama in the crucial swing state as election day draws near.
Donning Obama campaign pins, Mendel and Peter E. Menz ’15, a Crimson arts editor, roamed the sleepy streets of Rochester, periodically referring to their list of about 30 assigned voters, autumn leaves crunching beneath their shoes as they walked from to door to door.
The presidential election is fewer than three weeks away, and polls suggest that New Hampshire voters are torn between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates—a fact that worries Democrats since Obama easily won the state in 2008.
With Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney neck-and-neck in New Hampshire and nationally, front stoop conversations such as these could be the difference between Obama’s success or failure.
“[It’s] kind of a nerve-wracking experience because they have the election in their hands,” Harvard Democrats Campaign Director Simon M. Thompson ’14 said of New Hampshire voters. “You have to let people know that this is urgent.”
A CALL TO ARMS
As the yellow school bus carrying Harvard students rolled into Rochester, Daniel R. Ki ’15, head coordinator of Harvard for Obama, stood up to address his fellow students, many of whom were still groggy from Friday night escapades.
“A typical response is no response at all,” Ki warned the volunteers, drawn from the Harvard for Obama team, the Harvard College Democrats, as well as the Kennedy School and Law School.
“Every door that you knock on does make a difference,” he said, while telling canvassers that typically only about 5 percent of residents will even answer their doors.
The bus came to its destination as Ki made his last points. It was a little after 2 p.m. Canvassers filed into Rochester’s Democratic campaign headquarters, a cozy office with blue walls plastered with posters and charts. A countdown reminded volunteers how few days remained in the race: 17.
Carol Shea-Porter, an N. H. Democrat running for the House seat that she lost two years ago, was the first to address the Harvard volunteer crew.
“You’re the reason that we’re going to win,” she said, noting the significance of volunteers in her 2006 and 2008 campaigns for Congress.
“Who wants to go forward?” she said. She was greeted by cheers and applause.