Harvard Democrats Canvass in New Hampshire Ahead of Primary

{shortcode-139f6f048fdcef7764c745fc444481c0bf782047}Nashua, N.H.—On the Saturday morning before the New Hampshire presidential primary, school buses packed with Boston-area college students shuttled into the otherwise quiet city of Nashua to rally supporters for their favorite candidates.

More than 50 Harvard College Democrats braved the snow to join the fray— and occasional ornery residents— to canvass for their chosen candidate across the mom-and-pop shop lined streets of New Hampshire’s second-largest city.

The Democrats were split among supporters of establishment-backed former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, and the self-described democratic socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Fortified by an early group breakfast in Quincy House, the energized Democrats filed into two school buses on Harvard’s quiet and hungover campus at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, receiving a briefing from Katherine Wang ’19 on local demographics and voter history on the hour ride up. By 10:30 a.m., the students hit Nashua’s snow plowed streets.

Both campaigns enlisted the support of Granite Staters using the “Get Out The Vote” canvassing technique, where volunteers seek out likely supporters identified through research and focus on ensuring they cast their vote on election day. Volunteers use this campaigning method near election time, when most voters have already decided on their favorite candidate.


Susan X. Wang ’17, President of the Harvard College Democrats and a Clinton supporter, described the process as “a little less voter convincing, a little more getting people to go vote on Tuesday.”

The trip, organized by the Harvard College Democrats, included members of both Harvard Students for Bernie and Harvard Students for Hillary, eager to explain the merits of their candidates to locals. Members of the competing factions amicably shared intentionally mixed buses, united in their opposition to the Republicans.

Students who canvassed for Clinton were greeted at her Nashua headquarters by Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, who encouraged the undergraduates campaigning to help shape the country’s future.

“Obviously every four years you get to have a huge impact on elections,” Kennedy said in an interview. “This is absolutely critical to have young folks that are able to come up and understand all that goes into those campaigns.”

The streets of Nashua were not only filled with Democrats. “We did come across some Jeb Bush canvassers, and that was a little awkward,” Sanders-supporter Dominique J. Erney ’19 said.

This divide is common in New Hampshire, a swing state famous for its first-in-the-nation primary. With its independent and libertarian-leaning electorate, the state’s primary comes on the heels of the Iowa Caucuses, in which Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Clinton prevailed.

Theda R. Skocpol—a Government professor specializing in American politics—said she predicts Sanders and Republican candidate Donald J. Trump will likely win in New Hampshire as the Republican field whittles down to “three or four candidates.”

Skocpol’s predictions reflect the findings of the most recent Boston Globe New Hampshire poll, which has Trump leading the GOP field with 29 percent of the Republican vote and Sanders leading the Democrats with 50 percent to Clinton’s 41 percent.

Nashua locals said they enjoyed the excitement that permeates the otherwise sleepy city every four years come election time.

Jason A. Matukas, a local Uber driver, said the city seemed substantially busier than during the 2012 primary season. Matukas said he saw a surge in college student traffic in the days leading up to the primary on Tuesday, mainly from “Boston colleges.”

Towards the end of the day, a group of Democrats departed for nearby Manchester to join a rally advocating for a higher minimum wage just outside where Saturday evening’s Republican debate was hosted.

Wang said she hope this trip will foster communal sentiments among the two Democratic factions, despite their differences in candidate preference.

“At the end of the day, we’re all Democrats, and we’re all here to make sure a Republican doesn’t win the White House in 2016,” Wang said.

—Staff writer Kabir K. Gandhi can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @KabirKGandhi.

—Staff writer Daniel P. Wood can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @DanWood145



Recommended Articles