A Journey Through New Hampshire on the Eve of the Primaries

In the two days I spent in the northeastern state, I found intelligent, dedicated and ideology-driven voters who are also concerned about Israel.

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An unofficial Ted Cruz poster in New Hampshire, Feb. 2016.
An unofficial Ted Cruz poster in New Hampshire, Feb. 2016.Credit: Chen Arad
Chen Arad
Chen Arad

Over the weekend I went to New Hampshire to experience the primaries a little. I was mainly heading for events with Ted Cruz, the big winner from Iowa last week, in the hope of understanding better who and what he is. But I very quickly got sucked into the general election festivities. I decided to capture it in pictures, with few words and explanations here and there.

I started out Saturday morning, a few hours before the Republican debate, at Senator Cruz’s campaign headquarters. People weren’t too enthusiastic about my being there. In general, the campaign’s attitude toward the media, like that of the campaign of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders that I wrote about last week, is hostile. But here are a few pictures I managed to catch.

From Cruz’s campaign I went to a rally outside St. Anselm College where the televised debate was being held on Saturday. The field no doubt belonged mainly to Cruz supporters. Particularly conspicuous in their absence were supporters of Marco Rubio, considered a front-runner in New Hampshire.

Anti-Trump protesters in New Hampshire, Feb. 2016.Credit: Chen Arad

At some point a bus full of Rubio-rooting high school students came in all the way from New York, and a shouting match started between them and Cruz boosters, who had the upper hand at the rally until that point. The Rubio group shouted their candidate’s name, but were drowned out with shouts of “amnesty, amnesty,” by the more numerous Cruz crowd. That was no doubt a reference to Rubio’s policy on illegal immigrants, some of whom, he has said, would be allowed to stay if he is elected.

Both Rubio and Cruz are the sons of Cuban immigrants, but Cruz calls for all illegal aliens to be deported. Significantly, I didn’t see a single solitary supporter of Jeb Bush, the man who at the start of the campaign was considered a favorite.

At some point it got too cold and the debate was about to start, so I left. The next day I arrived at the city of Peterboro in the central part of the state, ahead of a town hall meeting with Ted Cruz. I had a few hours to burn so I walked around town a bit. Anya, a young server in a coffee shop, who described herself as “one of the only Jews in the area,” said she had once attended a Cruz event and that it was “interesting.” That’s a word Americans usually use when they don’t want to say anything negative.

Ted Cruz's New Hampshire campaign headquarters, Feb. 2016.Credit: Chen Arad

“Do you support him?” Anya asked me with polite suspicion. When I answered that I did not, she breathed a sigh of relief. “Wow, okay, good, because his event was one of the scariest things I ever saw,” she added.

Anya told me I had just missed Bernie Sanders, who had been at the local diner, across the street, a few hours before. “You can still ‘feel the Bern,’ over there, can’t you?” she said with a smile. According to Anya, most people in town support Sanders. I decided to go see what was happening in the diner.

From there, I went over to the town hall, where the meeting with Cruz was about to start. A line had already begun to form. One of the people I met was Arik Chapman, a Donald Trump impersonator. According to Chapman, there are quite a few impersonators who make their living from the elections.

The audience came in side and after a few video clips and one speaker, a local politician, Cruz went on stage. If in the debates it’s hard to see this, close up, his charisma is impressive.

In his wonderful blog “Of Elephants and Donkeys,” Yiftah Dayan said that Cruz was one of the most hated Republicans by Republicans themselves. Cruz is not ashamed of this; he’s proud that he ticks off the establishment. I won’t delve into his remarks because you can certainly find them elsewhere, but here’s some of what he said about Israel:

After speaking for about 10 minutes, and a variety of American political classics like the 9-year-old boy who went up on stage to ask a question, he went down into the audience and spent at least an hour answering questions.

I don’t have any bombastic conclusions. Mainly, it was interesting. A festival of democracy. The locals I talked to enjoyed the attention New Hampshire was getting, but took the trouble to tell me that they are used to it. At the end of today’s voting, the victors will celebrate, the losers will likely claim unfairness and some of them will bow out. Everybody will pack up their campaign signs and messages and move on to the next states in line, North Carolina and Nevada. “Everybody forgets New Hampshire between primaries and between elections, someone said to me as I walked back to the car at the end of the event.

Ted Cruz's New Hampshire campaign headquarters, Feb. 2016. Credit: Chen Arad

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