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Fiorina talks to a crowd in Newport, New Hampshire.
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Selling herself: Fiorina talks to a crowd in Newport, New Hampshire.

CREDIT: Kristen Zeis

A Day on the Campaign Trail

Even in the Internet age, you can’t run for president without meeting voters face-to-face. Upfront spends a day with Republican candidate Carly Fiorina in New Hampshire

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It’s lunchtime in Concord, New Hampshire’s state capital, and the Barley House, a restaurant across from the State House, is packed. With three months to go before voters head to the polls in the New Hampshire primary in February, there’s more on the menu this November day than just burgers and fries. Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is here trying to win over voters the old-fashioned way: She’s posing for photos, autographing campaign signs, shaking hands, and engaging in small talk. She’s hoping to energize her supporters and win over those who don’t yet know who they’ll vote for.

“We have to take our government back,” Fiorina says, giving her first stump speech of the day to about 40 people. After talking for a few minutes, Fiorina turns to a girl sitting nearby: “Maybe you have a question?”

“Um, why do you want to run for president?” asks 8-year-old Ana Koski of Weare, New Hampshire. 

Fiorina beams. “That is the essential question!” She talks about how fortunate her life has been and the lessons she has learned from that. She started out as a secretary in California and worked her way up. Fiorina, 61, has never held public office, but she’s the former CEO (chief executive officer) of technology giant Hewlett-Packard.

She turns back to Ana and says, “I’m running because I want all the possibilities present in my life to be present in your life and my granddaughter’s life.” 

Ana’s mother, Patricia Koski, brought her to see an election up close. “This is better education than you can get in a book,” she explains. “This is living government.” 

Fiorina is one of 14 candidates vying to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016. Three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination.

It’s lunchtime in Concord, New Hampshire’s state capital. The Barley House, a restaurant across from the State House, is packed. Only three months are left before voters head to the polls in the New Hampshire primary in February. There’s more on the menu this November day than just burgers and fries. Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is here trying to win over voters the old-fashioned way. She’s posing for photos, autographing campaign signs, shaking hands, and engaging in small talk. She’s hoping to energize her supporters and win over those who don’t yet know who they’ll vote for.

“We have to take our government back,” Fiorina says, giving her first stump speech of the day to about 40 people. After talking for a few minutes, Fiorina turns to a girl sitting nearby: “Maybe you have a question?”

“Um, why do you want to run for president?” asks 8-year-old Ana Koski of Weare, New Hampshire. 

Fiorina beams. “That is the essential question!” She talks about how fortunate her life has been and the lessons she has learned from that. She started out as a secretary in California and worked her way up. Fiorina, 61, has never held public office. She’s the former CEO (chief executive officer) of technology giant Hewlett-Packard.

She turns back to Ana and says, “I’m running because I want all the possibilities present in my life to be present in your life and my granddaughter’s life.” 

Ana’s mother, Patricia Koski, brought her to see an election up close. “This is better education than you can get in a book,” she explains. “This is living government.” 

Fiorina is one of 14 candidates running to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016. Three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Just Like Lincoln

Despite all the bells and whistles of politics in 2016—from Twitter and Instagram to bloggers and YouTube—you still can’t run for president without campaigning the same way that Abraham Lincoln did: meeting people face-to-face, answering their questions, and explaining why you deserve their votes. In early November, Upfront spent a day with Fiorina on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, where she’s lagging behind several higher-profile candidates.

By tradition, the February 9 New Hampshire primary is the second contest in the election, coming eight days after the Iowa caucuses (see “Primary Matters” ). Because it’s so early in the process, it’s important for all candidates, but for Fiorina it’s critical. With a crowded field of contenders and poll numbers stuck in the single digits, her campaign will likely be in real trouble without a better-than-expected showing in New Hampshire. 

“A good performance in New Hampshire can change a campaign overnight,” says Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire. “A bad or disappointing showing can evaporate a campaign overnight.”

Despite all the bells and whistles of politics in 2016—from Twitter and Instagram to bloggers and YouTube—you still can’t run for president without campaigning the same way that Abraham Lincoln did. That is, meeting people face-to-face, answering their questions, and explaining why you deserve their votes. In early November, Upfront spent a day with Fiorina on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. She’s lagging behind several higher-profile candidates in the state’s polls.

By tradition, the February 9 New Hampshire primary is the second contest in the election. It comes eight days after the Iowa caucuses (see “Primary Matters” ). Because it’s so early in the process, it’s important for all candidates, but for Fiorina it’s critical. With a crowded field of contenders and poll numbers stuck in the single digits, her campaign will likely be in real trouble without a better-than-expected showing in New Hampshire. 

“A good performance in New Hampshire can change a campaign overnight,” says Dante Scala, a political scientist at the University of New Hampshire. “A bad or disappointing showing can evaporate a campaign overnight.”

Struggling in the Polls

New Hampshire and Iowa can make or break campaigns.

Not everyone likes the fact that New Hampshire (population 1.3 million) and Iowa (population 3.1 million)—which are much less diverse than the rest of the nation—wield so much influence in the presidential nominating process. But both states fiercely defend their roles.

And the candidates often do too, at least publicly. “This is a state that vets candidates and takes citizenship and voting seriously,” Fiorina says. 

In the months leading up to the primary, New Hampshire is crawling with presidential candidates who crisscross the state, giving speeches, attending meetings at schools and churches, and holding forums where voters can ask questions. The week that Upfront followed Fiorina around, 10 other candidates held at least 34 events in the state.

Fiorina’s day began with a ritual of presidential campaigns: going to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office to file the papers putting her name on the ballot for the primary. In a room jammed with reporters, photographers, cameramen, and secretaries standing on desks to see, Fiorina handed over a $1,000 check (the filing fee) and signed the papers. Outside the office, dozens of cheering supporters lined the hallway, wearing red “Carly for America” T-shirts and waving homemade signs. 

By 12:30 she’s across the street at the Barley House, where everyone gathers close to hear what she has to say. 

“When I started campaigning in New Hampshire, nobody knew who I was. Polls said less than 4 percent of voters had ever heard my name,” she tells them. “I’m gratified that we’re now in the top tier of candidates.” 

That may be overstating things a bit. Fiorina experienced a bump in the polls after her strong performance in one of the early Republican debates, but her campaign is still struggling to gain traction. About 5 percent of New Hampshire voters support her as of early December, versus 27 percent who back Donald Trump and 12 percent who favor Senator Marco Rubio. (On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton, 46 percent to 44 percent.)

For almost 40 minutes, Fiorina mingles with the crowd. Then she sits down at the bar where video cameras and microphones are set up for a series of interviews.

The questions run the gamut. What would be your top priorities if elected? (Simplify the tax code and slash government regulations.) What do you see as the main problems in education? (“We’re failing too many of our students because they don’t have enough choices.”) Is it a problem that you’ve never held public office? (“I think it’s an asset. Ours was intended to be a citizen government.”)

Around 2 p.m., she wraps up the interviews and after a few more selfies (see also Selfie Election), heads toward a waiting SUV. She’s going back to her hotel for a few hours of rest. 

 

Not everyone likes the fact that New Hampshire (population 1.3 million) and Iowa (population 3.1 million) wield so much influence in the presidential nominating process. Both states are much less diverse than the rest of the nation. But they fiercely defend their roles.

And the candidates often do too, at least publicly. “This is a state that vets candidates and takes citizenship and voting seriously,” Fiorina says. 

In the months leading up to the primary, New Hampshire is crawling with presidential candidates. They criss-cross the state. They give speeches. They attend meetings at schools and churches. And they hold forums where voters can ask questions. The week that Upfront followed Fiorina around, 10 other candidates held at least 34 events in the state.

Fiorina’s day began with a ritual of presidential campaigns. She went to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office to file the papers putting her name on the ballot for the primary. In a room jammed with reporters, photographers, cameramen, and secretaries standing on desks to see, Fiorina handed over a $1,000 check (the filing fee) and signed the papers. Outside the office, dozens of cheering supporters lined the hallway. They wore red “Carly for America” T-shirts and waved homemade signs. 

By 12:30 she’s across the street in the Barley House. There, everyone gathers close to hear what she has to say. 

“When I started campaigning in New Hampshire, nobody knew who I was. Polls said less than 4 percent of voters had ever heard my name,” she tells them. “I’m gratified that we’re now in the top tier of candidates.” 

That may be overstating things a bit. Fiorina experienced a bump in the polls after her strong performance in one of the early Republican debates. But her campaign is still struggling to gain traction. About 5 percent of New Hampshire voters support her as of early December. That’s less than the 29 percent who back Donald Trump and 12 percent who favor Senator Marco Rubio. (On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton, 48 percent to 43 percent.) 

For almost 40 minutes, Fiorina mingles with the crowd. Then she sits down at the bar where video cameras and microphones are set up for a series of interviews.

The questions run the gamut. What would be your top priorities if elected? (Simplify the tax code and slash government regulations.) What do you see as the main problems in education? (“We’re failing too many of our students because they don’t have enough choices.”) Is it a problem that you’ve never held public office? (“I think it’s an asset. Ours was intended to be a citizen government.”)

Around 2 p.m., she wraps up the interviews. After a few more selfies (Also, see “Selfie Election”), she heads toward a waiting SUV. She’s going back to her hotel for a few hours of rest.

 

‘There Is Disquiet in This Country’

The last campaign stop of the day is a town hall meeting in Newport, 50 miles from Concord. Town halls are classic New Hampshire politics: People come to hear from candidates in person and to ask questions. There’s a local joke that people here expect to shake each candidate’s hand three times before making up their minds. 

Fiorina arrives at the Salt Hill Pub at 5:30. Before going upstairs to the private room where the event will be held, she sits down in front of a TV camera for a FOX News interview. Putting on an earpiece so she can hear questions from the program’s host, she smiles at the camera as she details more of her positions. Candidates must balance local campaign events with media appearances that keep their names in the national spotlight. 

Upstairs, the room is overflowing: About 50 people fill the chairs and another 50 stand behind them. At 6 p.m., Fiorina strides to the front of the room and starts talking: “There is disquiet in this country. I think people believe we’re losing something and we’re missing something. I think what we’re losing is a sense of limitless possibility, and what we’re missing is leadership.”

She once again talks about how she started out in business at a nine-person real estate firm, filing and answering the phone. It’s a classic up-by-the-bootstraps tale, the kind that plays well in American politics. “I went up the corporate ladder because I found that I could solve problems.” 

She says as president she’d use technology to harness the power of the people. She would do weekly radio addresses and ask people to give instant feedback on her ideas. 

“I’m going to ask you to take out your smartphone—if you have a flip phone, you’re going to have to upgrade—and press 1 for yes, 2 for no,” she says. “There actually is an app for this.” 

There are plenty of undecided voters in the room and they have meaty questions. How would you solve the problems in the Middle East?* (In a nutshell, strong support for Israel and ditching the nuclear deal with Iran.) What’s your strategy for dealing with the national debt? (“Two things: Cut spending and grow the economy.”) Will you take all U.S. soldiers out of Afghanistan? (No.) 

“This kind of interaction really is a democratic ideal, and you really can’t do that in most places anymore,” says Dean Spiliotes, a political science professor at Southern New Hampshire University. 

Fielding direct questions from individual voters is an example of “retail politics”—selling yourself to the public one voter at a time. In practical terms, it means candidates visit diners and senior centers and meet voters at people’s houses. It’s both a local phenomenon—New Hampshire voters demand it—and also an important part of the national election process.

“The flip side of retail politics is that it’s done for national consumption,” explains Spiliotes, “meaning a candidate goes and has coffee at a luncheonette knowing full well that a picture of him doing that may turn up nationwide in the news.”

The last campaign stop of the day is a town hall meeting in Newport, 50 miles from Concord. Town halls are classic New Hampshire politics. People come to hear from candidates in person and to ask questions. There’s a local joke that people here expect to shake each candidate’s hand three times before making up their minds. 

Fiorina arrives at the Salt Hill Pub at 5:30. Before going upstairs to the private room where the event will be held, she sits in front of a TV camera for a FOX News interview. She puts on an earpiece so she can hear questions from the program’s host. Then she smiles at the camera as she details more of her positions. Candidates must balance local campaign events with media appearances that keep their names in the national spotlight. 

Upstairs, the room is overflowing. About 50 people fill the chairs and another 50 stand behind them. At 6 p.m., Fiorina strides to the front of the room and starts talking: “There is disquiet in this country. I think people believe we’re losing something and we’re missing something. I think what we’re losing is a sense of limitless possibility. And what we’re missing is leadership.”She once again talks about how she started out in business at a nine-person real estate firm, filing and answering the phone. It’s a classic up-by-the-bootstraps tale, the kind that plays well in American politics. “I went up the corporate ladder because I found that I could solve problems.” 

She says as president she’d use technology to harness the power of the people. She would do weekly radio addresses and ask people to give instant feedback on her ideas. 

“I’m going to ask you to take out your smartphone—if you have a flip phone, you’re going to have to upgrade—and press 1 for yes, 2 for no,” she says. “There actually is an app for this.” 

There are plenty of undecided voters in the room and they have meaty questions. How would you solve the problems in the Middle East?* (In a nutshell, strong support for Israel and ditching the nuclear deal with Iran.) What’s your strategy for dealing with the national debt? (“Two things: Cut spending and grow the economy.”) Will you take all U.S. soldiers out of Afghanistan? (No.) 

“This kind of interaction really is a democratic ideal, and you really can’t do that in most places anymore,” says Dean Spiliotes, a political science professor
at Southern New Hampshire University. 

Fielding direct questions from individual voters is an example of “retail politics”—selling yourself to the public one voter at a time. In practical terms, it means candidates visit diners and senior centers and meet voters at people’s houses. It’s both a local phenomenon—New Hampshire voters demand it—and also an important part of the national election process.

“The flip side of retail politics is that it’s done for national consumption,” explains Spiliotes, “meaning a candidate goes and has coffee at a luncheonette knowing full well that a picture of him doing that may turn up nationwide in the news.”

Handshakes & Selfies

Thanks to social media, that nationalization of a local interaction now happens almost instantaneously. 

At the Newport town hall meeting, Fiorina ends her Q&A session at 6:50 by quoting part of the Pledge of Allegiance: “We must be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” 

People swarm around her, again wanting to meet her and asking for photos. Some want her to sign copies of her book. 

By 7 p.m., she’s making her way out through the crowds to the waiting SUV. She’s going back to her hotel in Concord. During this visit to New Hampshire, she’ll spend another two days trying to win over voters one handshake at a time.

Thanks to social media, that nationalization of a local interaction now happens almost immediately.

At the Newport town hall meeting, Fiorina ends her Q&A session at 6:50 by quoting part of the Pledge of Allegiance. “We must be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” 

People swarm around her. Most want to meet her and ask for photos. Some want her to sign copies of her book. 

By 7 p.m., she’s making her way out through the crowds to the waiting SUV. She’s going back to her hotel in Concord. During this visit to New Hampshire, she’ll spend another two days trying to win over voters one handshake at a time.

Hour by Hour

    • 11:55 a.m.

      Cheering section: Fiorina supporters line the hallway of the New Hampshire State House, waiting for her to arrive.

    • 12:05 p.m.

      Making it official: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner hands Fiorina a pen to sign the papers officially making her a candidate in the state’s primary.

    • 12:40 p.m.

      The stump speech: At the Barley House restaurant in Concord, Fiorina addresses supporters. 

    • 12:45 p.m.

      Chat with a future voter: Fiorina talks with 8-year-old Ana Koski of Weare, New Hampshire.

    • 2:00 p.m.

      On to the next event: After an hour and a half of mingling and interviews, Fiorina leaves for a break at her hotel.

    • 6:30 p.m.

      The town hall: Fiorina talks to a packed crowd in Newport, including many undecided voters.

CREDIT: Kristen Zeis (all images)

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