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LONDONDERRY, N.H.—A Ford Explorer cruised through a residential neighborhood, with two students standing on the car’s running board and gripping the roof. The Explorer stopped at a house and Aaron J. Mowery ’08 and Zachary B. Singer ’06, members of the Harvard Republican Club (HRC), jumped off to ask likely President Bush voters if they had made it to the polls already. Minutes later they hopped back onto the car and cruised to the next house.
“Extreme campaigning,” Mowery called it.
With Election Day in full swing in New Hampshire—a hotly contested state in this year’s presidential race—Harvard GOPers put forth a final effort to secure a win for President Bush. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Kerry had won the state by a margin of 3 percent.
Josh M. Mendelsohn ’05, chair of Massachusetts Students for Bush, said it’s difficult to determine how many members of the HRC are volunteering in New Hampshire: some came to the state with parents or traveled by themselves after classes, while others boarded a bus leaving Cambridge at 9 a.m.
Volunteers were offered $75 a day for their labor. Some denied the payment.
In recent weeks students have taken on various sites in New Hampshire, including Derry, Nashua and Manchester, said Mendelsohn.
Today, Mendelsohn said, their activities are part of the Bush campaign’s final “72 hours to victory” push, where volunteers do “whatever it takes” to get likely Bush voters to the polls in New Hampshire, a state the campaign identified as one of its top five states that are “teetering on the edge but winnable.”
Bush narrowly defeated Vice President Al Gore ’69 to win the state in the 2000 presidential election.
ON THE ROAD
Mendelsohn, Mowery and Singer arrived at the Bush campaign office in Derry, a converted retail space that’s decorated with signs like “Sportsmen for Bush” and filled with volunteers calling state residents. The Derry office issued a voter list and the three students hit the road, canvassing mostly in Londonderry, a neighboring town.
The area is a target, according to Mendelsohn, because Massachusetts residents have historically crossed the border into the small town in southern New Hampshire seeking lower taxes.
The canvassers ask two basic questions of residents: Have they already voted? Do they need a ride to the polls?
“Alright, we got Bush-Cheney!” Singer said, referring to a house’s campaign sign. But many homeowners were not at home, so the volunteers attached a voting reminder to the door handle.
“Hey look, they have a Reagan sticker,” Mendelsohn said of one house. Mowery went to the door and returned with good news for his partners: “Both of them voted for Bush and all their kids did too, so it’s eight votes.”
One house on the voter list was at the end of a long, sloping driveway. “That’s a hike,” Mendelsohn said.
“Worth it if we get a vote,” Mowery replied.
The voter lists furnished by the campaign led the canvassers to registered Republicans who have voted consistently in primary and general elections. Donor lists also played a role.
A group of kids watched the three volunteers cruise through a neighborhood, oddly holding onto the side of the vehicle. “What are you doing?” one girl asked.
“We’re campaigning,” Mowery saed.
“Bush!” he responded.
“You’re making the right choice!” the girl yelled back.
The lists have the occasional mistake. “We need our government back—can you give me one good reason to vote for Bush?” Singer said one homeowner told him. Singer gave him a piece of campaign literature.
Jerry Kapetonakis, a Derry resident and Bush-Cheney volunteer, said because he lives in a battleground state his home has been hit six times by volunteers, all from Massachusetts.
“They’re just kids who are passionate about the election,” said Carolyn Payne Lomax, a Bush worker from Waco, Texas, who has been in New Hampshire for 12 days. She pointed to Yale and the University of New Hampshire as other sources of student volunteers.
With less than three hours left before polls close, the campaign office wanted a higher turnout level, the volunteers said. A new batch hit the road again with lists of people who have not voted. A group, including HRC president Mark T. Silvestri ’05 filled, up a van but quickly opted to go through several lists on their cell phones.
“We want to make sure everyone voting for Bush actually goes and votes,” said Meghan E. Grizzle ’07, one of the students who placed calls.
The van parked and the handful of canvassers hopped out to hit as many houses as they can.
“This is like the fourth person to ring my bell tonight,” one homeowner said. One elderly gentleman referred to the neighborhood’s no soliciting policy and said that he already voted.
“What time do polls close?” he asked. The students tell him 8 p.m.
“I bet you’re happy about that,” he said as they walked away.
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