Political tourists swarm New Hampshire

Political tourists swarm New Hampshire

NASHUA, N.H. ­— Voters from New England and beyond have descended on New Hampshire ahead of the state’s primary with hopes of getting an intimate look at the party’s presidential contenders.

New Hampshire is geographically smaller than the other early primary states, making it easier for travelers to crisscross the state within hours. 

Parking lots at campaign rallies across the state are always filled with license plates from nearby states — Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine and beyond — in addition to New Hampshire. 

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Candidates also descend upon local eateries like the Airport Diner and Red Arrow to share coffee and meals with locals.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge Atlanta mayor says she has tested positive for COVID-19 Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response MORE gave a shoutout to groups of supporters from Delaware and Maryland who all made the trip to his Salem, N.H., rally earlier this month as a show of support.  

“And that’s what you call loyalty, man,” Biden said. Another group in the crowd traveled from Philadelphia, but were unable to get Biden’s attention.

On Friday at The New England Council’s “Politics & Eggs” breakfast — a New Hampshire tradition —  Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMilitary madness in the age of COVID-19 Will Twitter make @RealDonaldTrump a one-term president? Judd Gregg: The coming Biden coup MORE (I-Vt.) only had time to take a few questions, so the moderator asked that only voters from the Granite State ask questions. The second question directed at the Vermont senator was from a Massachusetts voter.

“I’m from Massachusetts but I’m also an American voter,” the man began.

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New Hampshire’s primary takes place on Tuesday, while Massachusetts and Vermont voters both cast their ballots three weeks later on Super Tuesday. Those states are home to Sanders and to progressive Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenTrump criticizes Redskins, Indians over potential name changes The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark Judd Gregg: The coming Biden coup MORE (D-Mass.), respectively.

“My first campaign rally last time around was Bernie Sanders, and he actually came to Massachusetts,” Doris O’Keefe, a Massachusetts voter, told The Hill at a rally for former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights Democrats debate Biden effort to expand map against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems, GOP dig in on police reform ahead of House vote MORE in Keene on Saturday. 

“Usually Democrats don’t come to Massachusetts, so we have to come here,” she continued. 

“We’re loyal to Bernie,” Margaret Burton of Springfield, Vt., told The Hill at the same Buttigieg rally. “I think Bernie does a great job in Vermont. I voted for Bernie in ‘12 when he was running for Senate.”

Even former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Top Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Andrew Yang endorses Biden in 2020 race MORE (D), who has struggled to gain traction in New Hampshire polls, has attracted New England visitors to his events. A group of voters, including some children, stopped by a Manchester mosque with the hopes of shaking hands with the governor. 

Meanwhile, campaign reporters have been roaming through campaign event crowds looking to interview Granite State voters and often have to ask several attendees before finding someone local.

“I start every voter interview by asking ‘are you a New Hampshire voter’ and sometimes have to go through 3-4 people before I find one,” NBC News reporter Alex Seitz-Wald tweeted.

“[There are] definitely a lot of tourists here,” said Neil Levesque, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’s executive director, who has been doing television interviews from the media hub at the DoubleTree Manchester. “As I was walking through the DoubleTree, people were asking to get their selfie with me because they saw the [TV] makeup on me and assume they have somebody important, which I’m not,” he said, laughing.

Despite the number of tourists barnstorming the state in the middle of winter, the candidates have been working hard in the days before the primary holding multiple events across New Hampshire. 

The old school retail politicking has appeared to have paid off for a number of candidates, like Buttigieg and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November The Hill's Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Reid Wilson says political winners are governors who listened to scientists and public health experts; 12 states record new highs for seven-day case averages MORE (D-Minn.), who are running second and third to Sanders in the latest polls in New Hampshire.

Political observers treat meeting presidential hopefuls in the Granite State as a political sport, making a point to get a selfie, a signature or a question answered by every candidate. 

A couple from Weston, Mass., a suburb of Boston, drove to Manchester on Saturday to hear Klobuchar speak. Susan, who did not give her last name, said she has also seen Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg so far.

“We have not seen Amy in person and we always try to come up to all the candidates,” she told The Hill. 

“[Candidates] tend to be much better and different in these more intimate gatherings in New Hampshire. ... We just feel lucky that we’re in Massachusetts and this is a doable thing to come up and get just about everybody in.”