Two busloads of Harvard students joined the political scrum in New Hampshire last weekend, heading north for an intensive, daylong experience campaigning in the Granite State’s first-in-the-nation primary.
“It is a great experience,” said Dan Glickman, director of the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics. “This is really a hands-on, real world learning experience for students interested in politics.”
The trip was arranged by the Institute of Politics (IOP) and co-sponsored by the Harvard College Democrats and Harvard College Republicans. Two buses left the Kennedy School Saturday morning (Jan. 24), one heading to President George W. Bush’s campaign headquarters in Manchester. The second bus made several stops, dropping students off at the headquarters of various Democratic candidates, also in Manchester.
Intensive get-out-the vote efforts, mailings, door-to-door contact with voters, and other activities awaited students as the New Hampshire campaigns reached the final stretch.
Glickman said the campaign’s last weekend in New Hampshire holds a lot of activity for students to see and participate in, from thousands of media representatives to campaign workers from many states being shipped in to help with the down-to-the-wire effort.
Ilan Graff ’05, president of the Institute of Politics’ Student Advisory Committee, said the trip was a great chance for students to play a role in political campaigns while learning what campaigning is really about.
“You see more on the ground than [you can learn from] what people can tell you,” Graff said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to put the values and ideals of the IOP and of the [other sponsors] in action.”
While students learn through the experience, Graff said it’s more a participatory than an academic exercise: The students want to campaign for the candidates they choose.
Harvard College Democrats President Andrew Frank ’05 worked on North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ campaign, leafleting and holding signs. Though Edwards placed fourth in the polling Tuesday, Frank said Edwards had gained momentum in the days leading up to the primary.
“It was hard work, but it was really fun,” said Frank, who stayed on in New Hampshire through Tuesday’s voting.
The students headed north in one of the most frenzied weekends of the campaign so far. Seven Democrats are still vying for their party’s presidential nod and the weekend saw former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry battling for the Democrats’ leader’s mantle.
Dean had led in many polls until last week’s Iowa caucuses, when both Kerry and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards came in ahead of him. Kerry’s victories in Iowa and in New Hampshire on Tuesday (Jan. 27) sets him as the frontrunner in the race to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. The eventual nominee will need the support of 2,162 of the delegates at this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Kerry won the New Hampshire primary with 39 percent of the vote. Dean was second with 26 percent, retired four-star Gen. Wesley Clark third with 13 percent, Edwards fourth with 12 percent, followed by Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, 9 percent, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, 1 percent, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, with less than 1 percent.
With the New Hampshire primary over, the focus shifts to the seven states holding caucuses or primaries on Feb. 3: South Carolina, Delaware, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, and North Dakota.
Harvard College Democrats are planning a trip to South Carolina today (Jan. 29) to help with campaigns there. Frank said about 25 students, including himself, will fly down and work on various campaigns. Students will spend the week between the fall and spring semesters in South Carolina, returning in time for the start of classes Feb. 4.
Last weekend’s trip was the second New Hampshire trip involving College Democrats, who made an earlier foray to New Hampshire in the fall, Graff said.
“We really couldn’t be luckier to have all this going on just an hour away,” Graff said.