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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8f680000Coverage of the 2016 races in New Hampshire, from the White House to the State House.

Presidential Campaigns in N.H. Play to Their Strengths in Final Days of Election

Jason Moon for NHPR
Volunteers work the phones for Democrats at a campaign office in Manchester.

With just days remaining before voters head to the polls, both presidential campaigns are sprinting to the finish line in New Hampshire. And, perhaps not surprisingly, each camp feels it has the winning strategy to get out the vote. But what does that look like on the ground?

On a recent weekday evening inside the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s campaign office in Manchester, about 30 volunteers sit at fold-out card tables and make phone call after phone call. Anthony Hemphill is one of them.

“Will he be supporting Secretary Clinton for president? Awesome, that’s what we want to hear. How about Maggie Hassan for Senator?”

Tonight, the volunteers are calling people the campaign has already identified as likely supporters. So these calls aren’t so much about convincing people of why they should vote for Democrats but making sure that they actually do on Election Day.

For every volunteer on the phone, there’s another with a Hillary-stickered MacBook, meticulously logging data from the conversations. Each time a voter gives an answer, a little box on a form gets checked.

Phone-banking and data-collecting sessions like this are at the heart of both the Trump and Clinton campaigns in New Hampshire at this stage in the race.

On a recent afternoon in Derry, Republican canvassers like Lily Grady, were making use of a smartphone app that gave their old-fashioned door-to-door operation a high tech edge.

“So it’ll tell us the people that live there and for each one when you click on it if there is an answer we can take a survey, you can say no answer, or answer refused," Grady says. "We’ll ask them about if they’ve made a decision on a candidate, if they’ll be there on Election Day.”

Republican volunteers go door to door in Derry.

When it comes to these bread-and-butter campaigning techniques, New Hampshire Democrats have a leg up this year -- at least when it comes to things easily measured like the number of campaign offices and paid staff.

But there are other campaign tactics at work this year that don’t easily fit onto a spreadsheet.

On the Clinton side, one of those strengths is an armada of celebrity surrogate campaigners.

At Concord’s annual Halloween Howl event, actor Sean Astin – of Goonies and Lord of the Rings fame – took selfies with trick-or-treaters and gave interviews to local radio.

“It’s absolutely critical that the United States of America hires a qualified person to do the most important job in the country," Astin told costumed locals. 

Map: 2016 campaign offices in New Hampshire

  Big name political celebrities have joined in to pitch for Clinton in New Hampshire, too. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Michelle Obama, and President Obama have all been tapped to campaign for Clinton in the state in recent weeks.

If Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign has been something of an ensemble performance, then the Trump campaign has been closer to a one-man-band.

But it’s a one-man-band that has given New Hampshire a lot of attention. Between his victory in the primary and next Tuesday, Donald Trump will have campaigned in New Hampshire almost a dozen times. That’s far more than any recent Republican presidential candidate.

And the state Republican Party has been working to make the most of those visits, which often draw overflow crowds.

At a recent Trump rally in Manchester, a handful of clipboard-wielding volunteers like Melissa Krutchfield worked the crowd of supporters as they waited for event to begin.

“We’re asking a lot of them to make phone calls and they can do that from home," she said. "Or go door-to-door if they live locally. So I’ve probably signed up maybe 15.”

Steve Stepanek is co-chair of the New Hampshire Trump campaign. He says their real advantage is that many of the people who come out to see Donald Trump are folks who haven’t participated in politics in years, or sometimes not at all.

“People don’t know about them," Stepanek said. "And we know about them. And those are the people who we’re reaching out to.”

For now, each campaign is laser focused on what they believe is a winning strategy. We’ll soon know which one of them is wrong.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.
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