The Final Push: N.H. Candidates, Volunteers Out In Force Before Midterms

Nov 5, 2018

The divisive 2018 midterm campaign is quickly drawing to a close.

Over the weekend - candidates and volunteers knocked on doors, shook hands - and in some cases went grocery shopping - as they tried to make their final get out the vote push.

NHPR’s Lauren Chooljian and Josh Rogers were also on the trail.

Edwards appeals to Trump base, Sununu heads to Market Basket

by Lauren Chooljian

It seemed like Eddie Edwards was off to a strong start on Saturday.

His first campaign stop at the Chez Vachon diner in Manchester was full of exactly the kind of voters he needs to win the 1st Congressional District. Not just Republicans - but Trump fans - voters like Armand Pinard and Rejean Rheaume, who frequent this French Canadian restaurant to talk politics.

"We need to build a wall as soon as possible. You know what I mean? Because we aren’t a country without a wall , you know what I mean?" said Regine.

"Those people coming from South America? Eh. It’s gonna be very interesting," Armand replied.

"This is the best country in the world, you’ve gotta protect it. Know what I mean?"

Eddie Edwards poses with a T-Rex
Credit Lauren Chooljian | NHPR

Recent polling shows Edwards’ race could be close - and since Donald Trump won the 1st District in 2016, Edwards will need all the Trump fans he can get. So while Edwards hustles to shake every hand in this diner - when he meets voters like Pinard and Rheaume - he speaks their language.

"We have to make sure that we keep the gavel from Nancy Pelosi, and we can’t let Maxine Waters be in charge of anything," Edwards said, "She’s threatening US citizens now."

Firing up the base is every New Hampshire Republican’s job right now, and tearing down Democrats is a classic way to do it.

At a Get out the Vote Rally later Saturday morning, NH GOP chair Wayne McDonald targeted the Democratic nominee for Governor.

"Molly Kelly. All she can do is talk about appealing to emotion, appealing to pity. Every single time she was asked to give a specific example or a fact, she couldn’t do it. Our governor does, our party does, and that’s why we’re gonna win on Tuesday."

That governor - Chris Sununu - has been spreading the same message. And while he did his share of campaigning this weekend, he also made time for some grocery shopping. I asked to follow the governor while he campaigned this weekend, and his staff invited me to the Stratham Market Basket, where the governor casually filled a basket with apparent Sununu family staples.

"We have a battle in our house between white and yellow mac and cheese. We do Kraft and Annies," he said, "Annies is actually polling better believe it or not, but we are completely out of orange."

Governor Sununu checks out at Market Basket in Stratham
Credit Lauren Chooljian | NHPR

The governor chatted with people who approached him, but seemed more interested in his grocery list than asking passing shoppers for their support on Tuesday.

"Should I infer, we’re taking a leisurely walk, you’ve got time to grocery shop that you’re feeling good about Tuesday? Are you nervous?"

"I feel good about Tuesday, no absolutely," Sununun said. "Look, at the end of the day. If I thought that the people of the state were just gonna listen to the negativity and the political rhetoric that were out there that’s dominating the national landscape it would be a different story."

Sununu insists he’s not taking anything for granted, but he seemed confident enough that he’s got at least hid race in the grocery bag.

Democratic Candidates Mostly Avoid Talking Trump, But He's Top Of Mind For Voters

by Josh Rogers

If you ignored the names on campaign signs, and just listened to the climax of the Democratic rally at the Teamsters hall in Manchester Sunday, it could have been almost any New Hampshire election in the past twenty years.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen was center stage, with a tight grip on the microphone, a tight grip on the crowd, and a tight focus on the basics.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen speaks at a rally in Manchester on Sunday
Credit Josh Rogers | NHPR

“How many doors have we knocked on? Raymond, how many doors? A hundred thousand doors just yesterday. How many total? Alright, a quarter of a million doors. Just think if we can get that quarter of a million people to vote Democratic.”

Democrats worked hard all weekend to engage core blocs of voters. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders jumped the border to mobilize students at UNH. Democrats also targeted female voters.

The party’s women’s caucus kicked off the weekend at a Concord bar with what was billed as a "hype-up." It drew dozens of women - casual voters, candidates, and activists.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I'm changing the things I cannot accept. So vote, vote, vote.“

Stephanie Payeur co-founded the women’s caucus last year. Until then, she’d never been overtly political.

“I started after Trump won the election," she said.

"You know the President says, 'I’m not on the ballot but I am on the ballot,' I assume you share that view?”

“Yeah, absolutely. So many people have been apathetic for so long thinking the government is running fine, but my feeling is they’ve been infiltrated by a bunch of nut jobs and they are the minority.”

Amanda Feigin rallies Democratic canvassers in Manchester on Sunday
Credit Josh Rogers | NHPR

Tough anti-Trump talk is hard to avoid when you talk to motivated Democratic voters, but on this final weekend, the President, at least by name, got less play from the Democrats on the ballot."

Molly Kelly, the lone Democrat in a major race hoping to oust an incumbent, was the only candidate to mention Trump from the stage in Manchester.

“Chris Sununu says he is honored, honored to get the endorsement of Donald Trump,” she said.

1st Congressional District nominee Chris Pappas, meanwhile, who in Eddie Edwards is facing a candidate selling himself as a Trump ally, seemed bent on changing the focus as he made his closing pitches to voters.

During a visit to a Derry coffee shop yesterday, when Trump came up, Pappas steered the conversation elsewhere.

“Well I really think this elections shouldn’t be about him, it should be about us, and it should be about the values that underpin us as a state. And our ability to make progress right here," Pappas said.

But whether candidates want to talk about the President or not, progress for Democrats up and down the ticket will hinge on how well the party and its affiliated groups mobilize voters.

And as a steady stream of Democratic volunteers grabbed packets and clipboards to knock on doors in Manchester Sunday, the President - whether candidates were talking about him our not -- was clearly a factor.

“We are ten of us, so we came together, said Alexia Duc, who lives in Massachusetts. She says volunteering for Democrats had never crossed her mind, and then came 2016.

“Entirely. 100 percent, 150 percent, motivated by that. We just feel the current atmosphere is absolutely toxic.”

Voters will decide tomorrow which party that atmosphere helps and which it hurts.