Presidential candidates are making their campaign stops at the obligatory house parties, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and a bunch of restaurants and bars. But one New Hampshire high school class is vying for its place on that list of stops.
It’s mid-afternoon on a Monday at Kennett High School in North Conway. Inside this classroom the scene is typically academic, with textbooks stacked along the walls and a white board with a list of grammar tips.
On a normal day this group of about a dozen AP U.S. Government students might be learning about how the presidency works. But today they’re patiently awaiting someone who could become president: John Delaney, a Democrat who announced back in 2017 that he’s running for president.
After a shortened version of his stump speech, Delaney was peppered with questions from the students.
They asked him questions like what he’d do about the high cost of college. And partisanship in Washington.
And then, student Chloe Armstrong lobbed this tough one:
“Forgive me for being brash, but you’re still not polling as well as some of the candidates. In a poll by the Washington Post you were 15th as of April 13th, and as of yesterday in the Rolling Stone you were 17th. So what are you going to do....” she said.
“I never really liked the Rolling Stone,” Delaney interjected with laughter from the students. “I liked the band, not the magazine.”
Armstrong, however, pressed on.
“But what are you going to do to bring yourself up in the polls?” she said.
These are some of the same students who were active after the Parkland school shooting. Some students also brought up the issues of guns.
“I think it’s filling a space where a lot of them want to occupy,” said Kat Murdough, the teacher of the class. “They want to talk about these things.”
Murdough said it’s really the students who are driving this.
“Last year and into this year, I think Parkland was really galvanizing politically for a lot of these students,” she said. “A lot of the students here today, they marched last year. I think that was an event that, outside of everything, really encouraged a lot of young people to speak up.”
Delaney isn’t the first candidate these students have gotten face time with. They’ve also met off-site with Senator Elizabeth Warren and former representative Beto O’Rourke.
Murdough said it started for her students when their representative, former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, announced she’d be vacating her seat a couple years ago.
“My students actually said, why don’t we have the candidates who are running to replace her come in, why don’t we invite them?”
They got some momentum when both major candidates -- Democrat Chris Pappas and Republican Eddie Edwards -- came to speak. This year it was only natural to turn to presidential candidates. Murdough took to Twitter to invite prospects.
“The worst thing that will happen is they won’t get back to us because we’re little or they’ll say no, they can’t do it,” Murdough said.
Right now they’re working on the details for a visit from former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. They even hand delivered a request to Senator Cory Booker when he was in the state.
And getting to interview some candidates face-to-face may come in handy soon: Most of these students will be able to vote for president for the first time in 2020.