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Welcome to Primary Backstage, NHPR's ongoing series that takes you behind the scenes to the places and people who make New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary tick. Sure, the candidates themselves typically grab all the attention when campaign season rolls around. But there's a whole crowd of local folks who make the New Hampshire primary what it is -- to say nothing of the places that have served as backdrops for rallies, meet-and-greets, and spontaneous campaign moments over the years.Whether it's the owners of a Seacoast chowder shack that's played host to generations of candidates, a long-time campaign photographer whose portfolio spans three decades, or the mayor who's canvassed with future presidents, you'll meet them all Backstage.

Want To Run A N.H. Primary Campaign Event? He's The Man To Call

Courtesy photo/Rich Pizzuti

Campaign rallies and town hall meetings featuring a presidential primary candidate have been a near daily occurrence in the Granite State over the past few months.

Behind the scenes, running these events and the planning that goes into them is no easy task.

Chris Malloy of Chris Malloy Eventshas been busy this primary season. He’s planned and run campaign events for Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie and Ted Cruz.

He joined NHPR's Morning Edition as part of our Backstage series, featuring the people and places behind the scenes of the 2016 New Hampshire Primary.

You spent a day recently running two events for Hillary Clinton: a town hall meeting in Nashua in the morning, and then a rally at a farm in Hopkinton. What was that day like for you?

We did the exact same thing for her the previous week. She had a town hall event in the morning and then an afternoon event at a home.

Is this something you would do for say a band where you have an advance crew go in and set something up while another crew is packing up the old event?

Yeah, that’s a lot like it. I think if you were to compare those two, the political work is just in its nature much more high profile. Typically, when we do our work then the candidate is there, we might have 25 different national news outlets there from all over the country and, as you get closer to the primary, all over the world. It’s a lot shorter notice. The show only lasts about 20 minutes, it’s extremely high profile and high pressure, and then it all disappears.

I imagine there’s a lot of last-minute changes to plans that come in.

Yeah, the nature of these political campaigns is that they’re last minute in general. Your best-case scenario is you might get a week when you know they’re coming to the state. And then it starts out with a scouting location, and then all the logistics to make that location work, if there’s permits. And of course, you need to get everything to look right for the media and for the attendees. There’s also troubleshooting. We may need to black out a window because the light is coming in. We have to have a way to cover up certain things, but not in an intrusive way because we’re guests at these town halls and 100-year old places all over New Hampshire. So you’ve got to come up with troubleshooting measures of things you could never see until you’re there and it happens.

Credit Sara Plourde for NHPR

I think people often wonder about these town hall events, if it’s just somebody walking into a hall somewhere and grabbing a PA mic. But there’s so much more to it. There’s staging, there’s lighting, and of course you’ve got to have areas for the press. There’s an awful lot to it.

There absolutely is. There’s all the hardware you mentioned, all the functional stuff. You do need staging for the press. They need to be able to film over people. They need to be able to see people, so we have lighting. They need to be able to hear the candidates and the questions, so there’s sound. But of course the bigger audience is not just the 200 or 300 people in the room; that event lives on forever in the media.

They’re playing to the cameras.

Yeah, I think that’s a fair statement. And that’s a big part of what we do is to make sure both of those needs are met. But ultimately, there’s a lot more eyeballs on all those media outlets.

How much of what you do is designing for the event? How much input do you get from the campaigns?

That depends. In some cases, we provide input and say this is what we’ve seen in the past, other times it’s just our job to execute it. They’ll tell us they just want a flag back there. They don’t care how you do it, they don’t want to know what you need to do to do it, that’s just what they want so you have to get it done. But we’ve played both roles and both are fun.

Credit Kate Harper for NHPR
A recent Hillary Clinton event at Beech Hill Farm in Hopkinton run by Chris Malloy Events.

You actually have some experience in politics yourself. You served one term as a state representative. What do you enjoy about doing this kind of behind-the-scenes work in politics?

I still enjoy politics. I still read about it. And that’s probably one of the reasons we’re taking such a big swing at the ball this year with the New Hampshire primary. Professionally, we’re set up to do it, but personally, I do enjoy it. And it’s New Hampshire, which is where I’m from, so it’s a real sense of pride that this is happening in our state. For what I do and for what I want to do, which is political production, there’s not a better opportunity in the entire country right now.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Michael serves as NHPR's Program Director. Michael came to NHPR in 2012, working as the station's newscast producer/reporter. In 2015, he took on the role of Morning Edition producer. Michael worked for eight years at The Telegraph of Nashua, covering education and working as the metro editor.
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