From my rental car in Nashua, New Hampshire –
Most of my day on the last full day of campaign stops in the Granite State was not spent at events for candidates, but in my car, driving through the latest snowstorm, waiting for candidate events to start, and filing endless stories about the nation’s first primary.
The day started out with an early morning shock, as I woke up at 3 am to a whole bunch of voices outside my hotel window; at first, I figured it was a Super Bowl party that hadn’t stopped.
Instead, it was a bunch of people getting in vans for some election work.
“I know it’s going to be a long day,” one man said to the others, “but let’s get out and work!”
Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to run down there and find out what they were up – and frankly – I needed a little more sleep.
My first stop of the day was at a Bernie Sanders event on the campus of Daniel Webster College.
One thing about New Hampshire and the rest of New England, they seem to have a endless supply of small colleges and universities here – and I would hit the trifecta as I drove around Nashua on Monday, Daniel Webster College, Rivier College and Nashua Community College.
There was also a surprise for me at the morning Sanders event, as I ran into my oldest friend in the world, Glenn Russell, who is a photographer for the Burlington Free Press newspaper.
Our fathers were college roommates, and the lives of our families have been linked ever since. It was great to see him, if only for a few minutes.
After a few pictures and a bit of chit chat, it was back to work.
I cut out of the Sanders rally just before he finished, much like someone leaving a baseball game before the big rush to the parking lot.
As I emerged, the snow had started to fall at a faster clip, and I dashed across town to a Jeb Bush event.
It was not clear why Bush was speaking at a Rotary Club event at a country club in Nashua – it was not the place for a large turnout just a day before the New Hampshire Primary.
Outside in the snow, I ran into Stephen Crowley, a still photographer for the New York Times, who warned me that it was a small venue, and that the Rotary Club had a guy who was making press access difficult.
I forged right into the room, and suddenly found myself almost talking to Jeb Bush.
After that, I tried to get plugged in to the audio mult, but the aforementioned Rotary Club guy refused to let me walk about four feet to get to that box. He just simply said no, and wouldn’t move out of my way.
I decided to just smile at the guy and figure out a different way to get the sound of Bush’s speech.
Soon enough, I was crowded back in the corner of the room, getting a feed from my radio colleague Gerry Bodlander of AP Radio; meanwhile, Bush was working the crowd.
The Rotary remarks were the regular boilerplate stump speech for Bush, with a number of jabs at Donald Trump mixed in.
But in the back, I was furiously using my laptop to edit my stories from the Bernie Sanders rally, getting them emailed out while Bush was getting underway.
Before Bush was finished, a police officer entered the room – I instinctively knew what he was going to say – that there were too many cars parked along the road into the club.
Sure enough, they said, get outside and move your car or it will be towed – that was my opening to get out of there before anyone else.
I went down the road to find some lunch; before going inside, I wrote and recorded some stories in the car about the Bush speech, then edited those as I ate some food.
It was snowing harder and harder outside; even the mailman was complaining about the state of the roads.
My plan was to next go up to Manchester to see Ted Cruz at a 3:30 event, so I snaked my way through the streets of Nashua, over to the turnpike that runs north through the southern part of New Hampshire.
But when I got on the pike, traffic was barely moving. 15 minutes later, I hopped off, sliding my way down the exit ramp, and doubled back into Nashua.
At this point, my next event was a Marco Rubio stop at 6:30 – that gave me several hours to burn; so, I put the car in low gear and limped over to the Nashua Community College.
On the way, I saw volunteers for Ben Carson putting up signs on a highway overpass.
After getting into a parking space at the Rubio event, I cooled my jets in the car for another hour, writing and voicing more stories, and then finally went into to get my equipment set up.
And the snow kept coming down.
By the time Marco Rubio appeared to do an interview with Fox News before his rally, there were about 500 people in the gym – including a couple of guys who were not friends of Rubio, as they unfurled a banner saying Rubio is not experienced enough to be President. This was the aftermath.
Rubio’s event was not near capacity – but that seemed to be more because the roads were terrible and the snow was still coming down – or was it because of his Saturday night debate debacle?
By the time I got out to my car, there was a lot of work to do to get ready to drive back to my hotel.
Before grabbing some food, I decided to fill up my rental car with gas – just in case I got stuck on the road. Inside the gas station, who did I run into?
The same three guys who had interrupted the Rubio rally.
They piled out of what looked like a white rental van with Florida license plates, walking around the convenience store like they had already had consumed more than a few energy drinks, and were now back for more.
“We showed them!” one yelled at the others across the store, drawing a puzzled look from the clerk behind the counter.
I decided the best course was to get out of their way. No need to identify myself as a reporter at this point.
Down the road, I grabbed some food and eased the car onto the turnpike. The highway was in surprisingly good shape.
A few miles later, the reason why was apparent – I was behind the train of snow plows.
And so, I crept along at 15 miles per hour with the plows ahead of me.
At least I had something to eat with me.
The extended ride on the highway gave me a lot of time to think about the last two weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire, all the rallies, all the interviews with voters, and time to think about what I had learned.
Now, we wait for the verdict from the voters here in New Hampshire.
And then we can head south and west for more.