Tales From The Campaign Trail

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At one point, Justin Shaffer '08 served as a go-between for members of the media and the Romney campaign spokespeople.

Sat. Jan. 5

More and more door knocking again in Derry and later on in Bedford. Surprisingly, with three days to go, about half of those I spoke to remain undecided and were receptive to my campaign literature. In Derry, I ran into a Obama canvasser. I wished him well and we shared our frustrations navigating the apartment development.

Sun., Jan. 6th

Continued door knocking in Windham and Manchester. The houses in this Manchester neighborhood were quite close together, so this was the first route I was able to finish completely.

The last pre-primary debate took place tonight. The office stopped making calls and watched. Romney performed very well. In fact, when the Fox News/Frank Luntz focus group announced that Mitt Romney won the debate and that many undecided voters were now supporting Mitt, the office became ecstatic. With our revived energy, our team was dispersed to place lawn signs across the state. My group had fun in the small town of Hooksett. Given there were no cars around, we stopped on the I-93 entrance ramp and completely blanketed it.

Justin Shaffer '08
sociology/anthropology
Searingtown, NY
jshaffer1@swarthmore.edu
Mon., Jan. 7

Charlie and I took the afternoon off, but we returned to Littleton to do an evening literature drop. We were able to cover three areas of Littleton that night, putting the information on people's doors as we had done that morning. We didn't have to talk to anyone, but this canvassing was nonetheless quite difficult because at night, finding out if we were at the correct house was harder than we imagined. Once we finished with this, we went home and rested up for Election Day.

Ben Raphel '09
Honors political science and history
St. Johnsbury, Vt.
braphel1@swarthmore.edu

Jon Erwin-Frank '11 getting fired up.

Tues., Jan. 8

OMFG! What a craaaaaaazy day. Everyone started out pumped. We all pretended to ignore the polls, but I can't deny I let them get to me. I thought we had it clinched and I could barely hide my excitement. "This is it," it old an intern. "We win here and it's over. We take it all the way to convention." That excitement got me through the "get out the vote" canvassing despite my soar knees and legs. I don't remember talking to anyone except one couple who said they had been supporting Obama, but changed their minds at the last second. Maybe that should have been a sign, I don't know. I blew it off at the time.

After canvassing, we went to the polling place in Nashua for visibility. I stood there for six hours or so holding my makeshift Obama signs (we didn't have wooden stakes, so we stapled some signs to sticks we found in the woods). You could tell a lot about the campaigns by looking at the people and their signs. The Romney campaign had only two people. They were rather clean cut looking young guys holding large, expensive looking signs. The Hillary campaign had a busload of supporters shipped up from Arkansas. They carried wooden stakes with five or so signs attached. A Hillary supporter who looked to be in his sixties joked, "Are you gonna have a keg after this?" An intern muttered, "Are you gonna go play bingo?" The average age of the Clinton supporters was probably around 45. Our average age was about 20.

My legs hurt so much I could barely stand in the packed auditorium as I waited and watched the results come in. When Hillary had a slight lead in the beginning, people consoled one another saying the younger voters had voted later in the day and he would probably catch up. When they announced Hillary's victory, I was shocked. My disappointment however, was fleeting. Standing just 20 feet from me, Obama delivered an electrifying speech. There's nothing quite like seeing him speak in person. His words brought a tired cliché to life. Every child has been told a thousand times, "if you think you can, you can." Listening to that powerful baritone presiding over a chorus of "YES WE CAN," I really believed it.

Jon Erwin-Frank '11
Chinese or political science
Whitefish Bay, Wis.
jerwinf1@swarthmore.edu
Tues., Jan. 8

Again, another 6:30 a.m. day. The Governor went to the greet voters at the polling place in Bedford. I, along with the staff member I was staying with, walked with him hoisting signs. He stayed for about 20 minutes wishing "good morning" to voters in this key polling precinct.

Following this, I went to Exeter to do some last minute door-to-door. It was oddly 60 degrees today and most people were outside walking their dogs. Most people I spoke to had already voted and preferred not to say for whom. In true Election Day madness, Bill Clinton spoke at a local coffee shop, causing a traffic standstill in this small town. I am guessing these people can't wait for life to return to normal tomorrow.

So I stayed in the office to watch the results pour in. Another tough loss, but I told my comrades "Michigan is our Firewall." The fight continues...

Justin Shaffer '08
sociology/anthropology
Searingtown, NY
jshaffer1@swarthmore.edu

Ben Raphel '09 and Charlie Decker '09 working their corner of New Hampshire.

This time, we drove to Benton, a very small town that was a 30-minute drive from Littleton. The town was not the highest priority for the campaign because of its population and distance, but we were able to find most of the voters at their homes, and almost all of them had voted for Obama. One woman even came to the door wearing an Obama button and was followed by her daughter, who was wearing an Obama t-shirt. By the time we had finished Benton, it was getting dark outside, but we drove back to Bethlehem, attempting to reach some of the voters who weren't home in the morning. One man proudly told me that his son had just turned 18 and was voting for the first time, and although he didn't know who his son chose, he told me that "he sure better not have voted for a Republican." After finishing this route, we headed back to Littleton, where we held signs up for Obama in front of the polling place for the last 45 minutes before voting closed. Then we joined a crowd of Obama supporters that was already large and only got bigger after we arrived. We succeeded in getting many people to honk or wave at us while they drove by. Our spirits were high, and we returned to the office to watch the results come in from across the state.

Ben Raphel '09
Honors political science and history
St. Johnsbury, Vt.
braphel1@swarthmore.edu
Tues., Jan. 8

Election day ended with a mad dash to Manchester (after a quick stop for showers) for Edwards' "victory" party. Once the polls close, there is literally nothing else a campaign can do, and the release is palpable. The months of work are over. The room was packed to the point it was hard to move at the Edwards party in Manchester, but the music was playing and free wine flowing plentifully. Win or lose, finishing a campaign is something to celebrate, if only for the fact that now campaign workers will finally be able to sleep more than a few hours every night, and at last have a day off.

I flew home the next morning, sitting next to a TV cameraman from Philly on a plane filled with depressingly jovial Hillary Clinton volunteers.

Daniel Leigh '09
Honors religion and economics
Portland, Ore.
dleigh1@swarthmore.edu

Anne Kolker '08 with Brandon Routh and Kal Penn.

"Caucus week went by too fast. (And I miss my host family! Hi Peg and Jim!) Trudging through those last few houses on my walk list after dark, or dreading a hang-up on another phone call, I still had a sense that I was a part of something larger than myself, and that I was working towards a greater good. Our little field office was lucky enough to receive visits from celebrities such as Kal Penn and Brandon Routh, as well as host the Senator himself when he came through town.

"Our Caucus Night victory was the cherry on top of an exciting and engaging week that left me not only fired up and ready to go until November, but also encouraged by the engagement in the democratic process I saw from people across the state. I certainly hope that this passion for politics outlasts this primary season."

Anne Kolker '08
political science and theater
Copenhagen, Denmark/Washington, D.C.
akolker1@swarthmore.edu