New Hampshire Wakes Up With A Primary Hangover

Feb 10, 2016

The morning after Primary Day, I stopped by Ben Carson’s campaign headquarters in Manchester to see if anything was going on.

There wasn’t. The lights were out, and the doors were locked. Carson was also long gone. At a neighboring hair salon, stylist Kettia Fenestor said the Carson camp made for good neighbors. But she’s happy to put it all in the rearview.

"Sometimes the commercials and everything can be overwhelming, and I’m just ready to see who’s going to be the next president," Fenestor said.

Fenstor talked to me as she did Sarah Vincent’s hair. Vincent was happy it was all over because of "the workplace tension that it brings, with people asking who you’re voting for – which shouldn’t happen in the workplace, but it’s going to happen anyway."

Cleaning up downtown

In front of the Radisson Hotel on Elm Street, T.V. crews packed up. I found Andrew Quinn, a technician for ABC News from New York City, carrying huge cases stuffed with super-expensive electrical gear.

"I’m heading to the UPS store to drop off approximately 750 pounds worth of equipment that needs to get shipped back to our Los Angeles bureau," said Quinn. "The past three days have been days where I wake up at midnight to start the day, and working until 3a.m. – or 3p.m., I should say. But well worth it to see the story through."

Still, Quinn was cooked. 

"I empathize with those people who had a great Fat Tuesday last night, because this Ash Wednesday I feel dead," he said.

Things were happening everywhere. A big C-SPAN bus pulled out of a side street and drove away. Camera crews were shooting in every direction, transmitting back to cable news shows around the country. Two huge white tents stood where those crews have filmed for the past few days.

But not all the technicians – and there were dozens breaking down scaffolding and tents – were from far away. Jim Mitchell is from Foxborough, Massachusetts and he works for a company called High Output, which provided the electricity for all the broadcasters.

"Yesterday was like a beehive of activity in the Radisson," he said. "I saw Kasich and I saw Bush. I just missed Rubio. And I saw Ted Danson. Sam Malone in the house, right?"

Inside the beehive

In the Radisson’s lobby, there was a busy-ness...not the frantic rush of Primary Day, but a quieter buzz. People plugged away on laptops and smartphones. A crew from MSNBC was building a set for a shoot. Ordinarily I’d be nervous that a hotel would kick a reporter out who just walked in to record customers, but pretty much everyone in there was a reporter.

Cate Martel was one of them. She works for the D.C. paper The Hill. But she's from Bedford originally. She may be the only out-of-state reporter who flew in to cover the primary, yet stayed with her parents. 

"It’s kind of all of my worlds colliding," she said. "Some of my family were here, some of my high school friends, people I knew from college mixed from my old job, my new job,":she said.

The media crush in New Hampshire began at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in April and continued through Tuesday. Wednesday morning, most outlets had packed up their tents for elsewhere.
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

When she was a kid, Martel’s father took her to campaign events to see candidates up close. And then when she worked as an intern for New England Cable News, she says she would watch national media would parachute into the state with assumptions about people in New Hampshire.

"I would see them oversimplify it, and think, 'No, there’s a lot more factors at play, and when I grow up I want to be covering this and have the real perspectives' – what we deserve, you know? The full perspective."

The exodus from New Hampshire was weary and rushed. But tired as people were, there was an undercurrent of pride in watching a little bit of history happen.