It’s one of the quirkiest traditions of the New Hampshire presidential primary: Politics and eggs.
For 20 years, would-be presidents have come to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College to speak, take questions and to sign wooden eggs – which founder Fred Kocher originally just put out as table decorations.
“One time a person said would you sign my egg to a candidate,” says Neil Levesque, the Institute's executive director. “Now it’s really a special New Hampshire tradition, that people will come to a Politics and Eggs breakfast and get their eggs signed by a candidate."
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The eggs have become so enmeshed in the primary process that they made an appearance on NBC's "The West Wing" - to the chagrin of fictional Vice President Bob Russell (Gary Cole). "You ever tried signing a wooden egg?" he asked his associates. "What about wooden slices of toast? You get traction with your pen."
Among the real life candidates who've come to Politics and Eggs in the 2016 campaign cycle: Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Donald Trump – though Levesque says schedule constraints meant that Trump had to finish signing his batch of eggs on his way out of town.
"I drove him to the airport," Levesque says. "It was a day when we had some pretty good New Hampshire frost heaves, and his already quite large signature became even larger with each bump in the road. It was a fun day signing eggs [on the way] to the Manchester Airport."
The New Hampshire Institute of Politics keeps a large and growing collection of signed eggs in – what else – egg cartons. But Levesque says there’s one problem: "These signatures are quite flamboyant, and trying to figure out exactly who these people are, sometimes many years after they sign the egg... it’s hard keeping track of who ran for president and what these signatures look like. We try to keep a good running order of who they are."
Signing eggs may not be the most substantive thing a candidate does in seeking New Hampshire primary votes, but Neil Levesque says, in a way, this tradition does embody what the New Hampshire primary process is all about.
"It's the individual voter coming and having a chance not only to ask a question, but ask a follow-up question and have direct contact with these candidates," he says. "The signing of the egg is a personal way they do that."