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The stump speech: Buttigieg addresses a crowd of about 500 people outside the New Hampshire State House in Concord.

Channing Johnson

A Day on the Campaign Trail

Even in the Instagram age, you can’t run for president without meeting voters face-to-face. Upfront spends a day with candidate Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire.

It’s an unseasonably warm fall day in Milford, New Hampshire, and Pete Buttigieg is doing the kind of thing presidential candidates often do in this state: taking a walking tour of a charming downtown.

Trailed by a swarm of reporters and photographers, Buttigieg (pronounced BOOT-edge-edge) and Milford’s mayor stroll by the mom-and-pop stores on Union Square, making quick stops in the Arrow Diner and a gift shop that sells jewelry, cards, and assorted knickknacks. 

It’s an unseasonably warm fall day in Milford, New Hampshire. Pete Buttigieg is doing the kind of thing presidential candidates often do in this state: taking a walking tour of a charming downtown.

Trailed by a swarm of reporters and photographers, Buttigieg (pronounced BOOT-edge-edge) and Milford’s mayor stroll by the mom-and-pop stores on Union Square. They make quick stops in the Arrow Diner and a gift shop that sells jewelry, cards, and assorted knickknacks.

Jim McMahon

Then the throng turns down a side street and descends on a communal office space used by local entrepreneurs. There, with TV cameras rolling, a small business owner poses a question: He’s a moderate Republican, he says, and he likes President Trump’s tax cuts. He’s looking for a candidate who’ll keep them in place but also provide more stability in U.S. trade policy. Is Buttigieg that candidate?

“I might be,” Buttigieg answers cautiously. He’s not going to promise to keep the Trump tax cuts because they’ve led to enormous deficits that he thinks are bad for the country, he says bluntly. “But I think you might find we have some common ground.”

At 37 years old, Buttigieg is the youngest of the 15 candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee for president. As the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with a population of just 100,000, he’s also competing against more traditionally qualified candidates, including senators, governors, and a former vice president. The person who wins the nomination will challenge President Trump in November 2020.

Then the crowd turns down a side street. They descend on a communal office space used by local entrepreneurs. There, with TV cameras rolling, a small business owner poses a question: He’s a moderate Republican, he says, and he likes President Trump’s tax cuts. He’s looking for a candidate who’ll keep them in place but also provide more stability in U.S. trade policy. Is Buttigieg that candidate?

“I might be,” Buttigieg answers cautiously. He’s not going to promise to keep the Trump tax cuts because they’ve led to enormous deficits that he thinks are bad for the country, he says bluntly. “But I think you might find we have some common ground.”

Buttigieg is 37 years old. He’s the youngest of the 18 candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee for president. He’s the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, which has a population of just 100,000. He’s competing against more traditionally qualified candidates, including senators, governors, and a former vice president. The person who wins the nomination will challenge President Trump in November 2020.

Just Like Lincoln

Trump is one of the most controversial leaders in American history, but he remains very popular with Republican voters, and Democrats are worried about finding a candidate who can beat him.

That’s just one of the reasons the Democratic hopefuls will face intense scrutiny, and why they’ll have to work hard for every vote. Even in the Instagram age, you can’t run for president without campaigning the same way Abraham Lincoln did: meeting people face-to-face, answering their questions, and explaining why you deserve their support. In late October, Upfront spent a day with Buttigieg on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, where he’s been gaining momentum.

Trump is one of the most controversial leaders in American history. Still, he remains very popular with Republican voters. Democrats are worried about finding a candidate who can beat him.

That’s just one of the reasons the Democratic hopefuls will face intense scrutiny. It’s also part of why they’ll have to work hard for every vote. Even in the Instagram age, you can’t run for president without campaigning the same way Abraham Lincoln did. Candidates have to meet people face-to-face, answer their questions, and explain why they deserve their support. In late October, Upfront spent a day with Buttigieg on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. He’s been gaining momentum in the state.

‘A good performance in New Hampshire can change a campaign.’

The New Hampshire primary on February 11 is the second contest in the nation, coming eight days after the Iowa caucuses (see “Primary Matters”). Because it’s so early in the process, it can have a huge impact. Buttigieg, who is currently polling in the top four nationally and in New Hampshire, is hoping that a better-than-expected result will boost him into the front of the pack.   

“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.”

Which is why in the months leading up to the primary, New Hampshire is crawling with presidential candidates who crisscross the small state meeting voters one-on-one and participating in all kinds of rallies and forums. The week that Upfront followed Buttigieg around, 10 other candidates held at least 41 other events in the state.

The New Hampshire primary on February 11 is the second contest in the nation. It happens eight days after the Iowa caucuses (see “Primary Matters”). Because it’s so early in the process, it can have a huge impact. Buttigieg is currently polling in the top four nationally and in New Hampshire. He’s hoping that a better-than-expected result will boost him into the front of the pack.

“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.”

This is why in the months leading up to the primary, New Hampshire is crawling with presidential candidates. They crisscross the small state meeting voters one-on-one and participating in all kinds of rallies and forums. The week that Upfront followed Buttigieg around, 10 other candidates held at least 41 other events in the state.

Channing Johnson

11:40 a.m. Greeting supporters: Huge crowds line the hallway outside the secretary of state’s office.

Stump Speech & Selfies

Buttigieg’s day had begun around 11:30 that morning, 35 miles north of Milford, in Concord, the state capital, with the official filing of candidacy papers in the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office. More than an hour before Buttigieg arrives, the room is already crammed with photographers, reporters, and TV cameras. The corridor outside the office is lined with Buttigieg supporters waving signs and chanting “Pete! Pete! Pete!”

When the candidate finally arrives, thunderous applause breaks out in the hallway. The actual filing takes just minutes: Buttigieg hands New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner a check for $1,000 (the fee to get your name on the ballot) and signs the form. Buttigieg spends a few minutes talking with New Hampshire reporters before heading outside, where more than 500 people are waiting for him to talk.

Buttigieg’s day had begun around 11:30 that morning, 35 miles north of Milford, in Concord, the state capital. It started with the official filing of candidacy papers in the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office. More than an hour before Buttigieg arrives, the room is already crammed with photographers, reporters, and TV cameras. The corridor outside the office is lined with Buttigieg supporters waving signs and chanting “Pete! Pete! Pete!”

When the candidate finally arrives, thunderous applause breaks out in the hallway. The actual filing takes just minutes. Buttigieg hands New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner a check for $1,000 (the fee to get your name on the ballot) and signs the form. Buttigieg spends a few minutes talking with New Hampshire reporters before heading outside. There, more than 500 people are waiting for him to talk.

Channing Johnson

11:45 a.m. It’s official: Buttigieg displays the signed form that puts his name on the New Hampshire primary ballot.

Addressing the crowd, he runs down a list of issues: climate change, gun violence, health care. These are key issues for Democratic primary voters, but Buttigieg frames them in a more centrist way: “These are the priorities of the American people, not just the Democratic Party.”

He calls on everyone to support his campaign—and to recruit their friends and family: “One person can do a lot, but nothing close to what a movement can do!”

The stump speech is over. Now it’s time for some close-ups. For almost 45 minutes, he works his way around the crowd, patiently grasping hands, having quick chats with people, signing autographs, and posing for selfies.

Addressing the crowd, he runs down a list of issues: climate change, gun violence, health care. These are key issues for Democratic primary voters. But Buttigieg frames them in a more centrist way: “These are the priorities of the American people, not just the Democratic Party.”

He calls on everyone to support his campaign. He also asks them to recruit their friends and family: “One person can do a lot, but nothing close to what a movement can do!”

The stump speech is over. Now it’s time for some close-ups. For almost 45 minutes, he works his way around the crowd. He patiently grasps hands, has quick chats with people, signs autographs, and poses for selfies.

Channing Johnson

12:30 p.m. High-fiving future voters: Buttigieg chats with a class of fourth-graders touring the State House in Concord.

Buttigieg, the first openly gay major presidential hopeful, began his candidacy as a longshot. But as videos of him adroitly answering tough questions went viral, voters rallied around his message of uniting Americans around common values. His events have been packed, and his poll numbers are on the rise. He’s raised more than $45 million since the spring. He faces a lot of competition, however, especially from former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who remain ahead of him in most national polls.

The next event of the day is the taping of a local radio show. At a pub across the street from the State House, Buttigieg sits with the show’s hosts and answers a series of meaty policy questions. The topics range from his leadership style to America’s role in the world.

Buttigieg is the first openly gay major presidential hopeful. He began his candidacy as a longshot. But videos of him skillfully answering tough questions soon went viral. They inspired voters who rallied around his message of uniting Americans around common values. His events have been packed, and his poll numbers are on the rise. He’s raised more than $45 million since the spring. But he faces a lot of competition, especially from former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The three of them remain ahead of him in most national polls.

The next event of the day is the taping of a local radio show. At a pub across the street from the State House, Buttigieg sits with the show’s hosts and answers a series of meaty policy questions. The topics range from his leadership style to America’s role in the world.

Channing Johnson

1:00 p.m. Making an entrance: Buttigieg jogs out of the State House into the cheering crowd assembled for his rally.

It’s after 3:00 by the time the radio interview is done, and Buttigieg is behind schedule to get to Milford. After his 30-minute tour of the town’s business district, the candidate and his entourage head to the last event of the day: a town hall meeting in Peterborough. Many people waited in a long line to get seats, and by the time the event gets under way, the huge auditorium is jammed with more than 650 people.

One of them is Caitlin Hegarty, 17, a senior at the nearby Dublin School. “My generation is going to make an impact, and I want to be able to make the right choice,” she says. She also likes Warren and Sanders, but she’s very enthusiastic about Buttigieg.

“I know that he’s from Indiana, that he’s gay, and that he’s very young,” she adds. “I know that he’s for diversity. I really like that.”

It’s after 3:00 by the time the radio interview is done, and Buttigieg is behind schedule to get to Milford. He takes a 30-minute tour of the town’s business district. Afterward, the candidate and his entourage head to the last event of the day: a town hall meeting in Peterborough. Many people waited in a long line to get seats. By the time the event gets under way, the huge auditorium is jammed with more than 650 people.

One of them is Caitlin Hegarty, 17, a senior at the nearby Dublin School. “My generation is going to make an impact, and I want to be able to make the right choice,” she says. She also likes Warren and Sanders, but she’s very enthusiastic about Buttigieg.

“I know that he’s from Indiana, that he’s gay, and that he’s very young,” she adds. “I know that he’s for diversity. I really like that.”

Channing Johnson

1:45 p.m. Working the crowd: Buttigieg spends 45 minutes greeting voters, signing autographs, and taking selfies.

What Democracy Looks Like

Buttigieg takes the stage and gets directly to his main talking points, once again ticking down his list of key Democratic issues. But mostly he focuses on big, inspirational themes: unifying Americans and restoring America’s place in the world.

“We desperately need to come out of this as one country,” he says. “We won’t agree on everything, but we’ve got to be one country.”

When he’s done with his speech, he takes questions from the audience.

Buttigieg takes the stage and gets directly to his main talking points. Once again, he ticks down his list of key Democratic issues. But mostly he focuses on big, inspirational themes. That includes unifying Americans and restoring America’s place in the world.

“We desperately need to come out of this as one country,” he says. “We won’t agree on everything, but we’ve got to be one country.”

When he’s done with his speech, he takes questions from the audience.

Channing Johnson

2:30 p.m. Radio interview: In a pub across from the State House, Buttigieg does an interview for a local radio show.

How would you pick the people in your administration? (“I’m looking for people who reflect America.”) How would you work with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? (“I’m a Democratic mayor in Indiana, so I’m on my third Republican governor. My experience involves a lot of reaching across the aisle.”) How would you support public education? (“If we honored our teachers a little more like soldiers and paid them a little more like doctors, this country would be in a better place.”)

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 an important part of the national election process.

How would you pick the people in your administration? “I’m looking for people who reflect America.” How would you work with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? “I’m a Democratic mayor in Indiana, so I’m on my third Republican governor. My experience involves a lot of reaching across the aisle.” How would you support public education? “If we honored our teachers a little more like soldiers and paid them a little more like doctors, this country would be in a better place.”

Fielding direct questions from individual voters is an example of “retail politics.” This means candidates sell themselves 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 and an important part of the national election process. In fact, New Hampshire voters demand it.

Which Democrat will face President Trump in November?

“The flip side of retail politics is that it’s done for national consumption,” explains Dean Spiliotes, a political science professor at Southern New Hampshire University, “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.”

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

“We kind of become a stage onto which the rest of the country can peer in and see what participatory democracy looks like,” Spiliotes says.

“The flip side of retail politics is that it’s done for national consumption,” explains Dean Spiliotes, a political science professor at Southern New Hampshire University, “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.”

That nationalization of a local interaction now happens almost instantaneously through social media.

“We kind of become a stage onto which the rest of the country can peer in and see what participatory democracy looks like,” Spiliotes says.

Channing Johnson

6:00 p.m. The town hall meeting: Buttigieg addresses a packed crowd of more than 650 people in the Peterborough Town Hall auditorium.

Buttigieg wraps up the Q&A with a simple plea: “I’m asking for your vote.”

The audience responds with a standing ovation. He waves, steps down off the stage, and wades into the audience.

The next day, the candidate has another town hall meeting scheduled first thing in the morning in Derry, New Hampshire. Then he’s off to Iowa for a big event featuring all the major Democratic candidates that night. A week later, he’ll be back in New Hampshire to try to win over more voters.

Buttigieg wraps up the Q&A with a simple plea: “I’m asking for your vote.”

The audience responds with a standing ovation. He waves, steps down off the stage, and wades into the audience.

The next day, the candidate has another town hall meeting scheduled first thing in the morning in Derry, New Hampshire. Then he’s off to Iowa for a big event featuring all the major Democratic candidates that night. A week later, he’ll be back in New Hampshire to try to win over more voters.

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