They plan to engage in a series of individual encounters with New Hampshire’s registered Democrats and independents, trying to bring the voters over to Kerry’s side with a bit of charm and an arsenal of campaign-approved slogans and facts.
“You get into a conversation that leads to them renouncing their deviant views,” Scarry says wryly.
Armed with a photocopied map of suburban Bedford, N.H., a list of registered voters and a stack of two-sided glossy color fliers, the three students venture out on the road.
There is no shortage of New Hampshire’s legendary headstrong voters, who have the opportunity every four years to play a major role in determining candidates’ political futures.
One man with a patrician accent furiously accuses Kerry of remaining “invisible as a senator until two years ago” before launching into a tirade against Kerry’s senior colleague from Massachusetts, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56. Others curtly declare their unshakable allegiance to Dean or President George W. Bush before closing the door in a Kerry canvasser’s face.
But for every voter whose mind is made up, there are several who give some indication, however slight, of wavering. It is these residents who get the full treatment.
A man who says he is “sort of” Republican but “a big Clinton fan” is told about Kerry’s insistence on keeping Bush’s tax cuts for the middle class. A woman who says abortion is the only issue that matters to her is reminded of the senator’s longstanding support of Roe v. Wade. Another woman, whose 31-year-old son has been unemployed for more than a year because his company moved to Switzerland, hears about the senator’s promise to close tax loopholes for such corporations.
Finally, after visiting more than 50 homes in four and a half hours of canvassing, the students head for an evening rally in nearby Derry.
In a high school gym, a determined Kerry paces back and forth across the stage, drawing roars of applause as he shouts out the talking points made more modestly by the three canvassers earlier in the day.
The three students stay to the end, lining up to see Kerry up close as he leaves the room. And then, a little after 7 p.m., Smyth and Scarry get back in the van and head for Cambridge.
After all, Smyth still has to finish a 25-page term paper on campaign finance reform due the next afternoon.
The Night Before
As Kerry wraps up his speech on Monday evening, Schmidt and two other students are traveling up to Nashua to campaign for his rival, Dean.
“We’re staying in zone headquarters, which is a fancy word for some dude’s basement,” Schmidt explains to Ben B. Chung ’06, who is also a Crimson editor, and Eric P. Lesser ’07 on their way up.
They are making their trip a week after their candidate’s surprising third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses and the infamous yelp that followed.