Whose Rules: On the Ground in New Hampshire

By Zachary Agush |

While states like Colorado or Virginia have recently drifted into the Democratic column due to changing demographics, New Hampshire remains one of the swingiest of swing states. This year is no exception. I have been canvassing southern New Hampshire, specifically Nashua, since late summer, and the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” rings true. I have found that voters of all ages, from young college students to senior citizens, are not afraid to speak their minds on the issues.

I have spoken mainly to independent voters and some Republicans. Over dozens and dozens of conversations, they’ve brought up their concerns, which range from the gridlock in Washington to the rising cost of higher education for their children and America’s standing and influence around the world.

Many will be staring at the electoral map on November 8 to see whether Pennsylvania will stay in the Democratic column or if Florida will flip, I will be watching New Hampshire—because the result in that state may not just determine the final narrative of the presidential election, it will also determine the makeup of the Senate. Current polling shows that Hillary Clinton has a lead in the state, but many voters I have spoken to in recent weeks have said they were considering splitting their tickets, voting for Clinton for president because of her qualifications, temperament, and so on, but voting for Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte for Senate on the grounds that Clinton needs a check on her power.

What I find most interesting about canvassing is that it is the fundamental necessity of a political campaign. You can write and deliver great speeches or air well-designed television ads, but it’s the ground game and speaking to voters one-on-one that is key. In this political cycle, this is going to be critical to getting out the vote from the smallest village to the largest urban areas of New Hampshire on Election Day.

I enjoy canvassing because of the ability to be actively involved in helping people make a choice. When talking to independents, the conversations involve showing how the candidate will improve their lives for the better by connecting local issues to the wider national dialogue. Talking to Republicans, on the other hand, is more about helping them maintain their dignity while confronting what they see as the difficult choice before them. I believe this groundwork makes the difference between the votes a candidate can get on their own and the final tally when all the votes are cast. Donald Trump doesn’t believe in a ground game, and the one he has is skeletal in New Hampshire, largely handled by the state party and the RNC. If he had a more defined and robust organization on the ground, the landscape of New Hampshire could be completely different right now.

I have recently come across some millennial voters in my neighborhood canvasses who have said they will not vote in this election. This sends a chill down my spine. While we’ve all heard that every election is the most consequential in our lifetime, this time it is 100 percent true. Who wins the White House and Congress will determine the policy direction of this country for the next decade.

I urge millennials around the country to take some time this weekend to volunteer for a campaign, even at the local level; to canvass and speak to fellow voters; and, when the dust settles after Election Day, to continue to share their opinions on the issues with elected officials at all levels of government. They need to hear from us; otherwise, their decisions will not reflect the needs and priorities of those who will live with the consequences

Zachary Agush is a RooseveltNEXT member and Roosevelt alumnus from Wheaton College.