Over this past weekend (the 19th and 20th of December), I visited four different town halls for four different Republican candidates in New Hampshire. They were Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor Chris Christie, Governor Jeb Bush, and Neurosurgeon Ben Carson. While each person is fairing differently in the polls, each gathering was unique and interesting.
Despite my support for certain candidates over others (some of whom I didn’t see), I tried to go into each town hall with an open mind, looking to see which candidates made the strongest arguments and how their personas match (or didn’t match) what they are portrayed as. You might be surprised at some of the things that I learned.
In the next few days, I will detail the ones that I went to, replete with pictures and a few videos of each stop. Hopefully this inside look will give you new perspective that you’re not able to get with larger publications.
The first town hall that I went to was Lindsey Graham, which turned out to be one of his last in his campaign. With him was a guest: Senator John McCain.
One of the first things I noticed about Lindsey Graham’s town hall, which took place at the Londonderry Town Offices, in Londonderry, NH, is that it actually felt like it was being held in a town hall. The setting was small, but personal.
When I arrived, there were only about 4 or five guests mingling around; there were about the same number of staffers. As 1:30 drew nearer, more people made their way in until the crowd grew to about 40 people total.
One thing that I was looking for was if Mr. Graham would arrive on time. I’ve grown accustomed over the last seven years to politicians not delivering on their promises, including their time of arrival.
I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Graham was almost on time, and the only reason why we was a few minutes late was because he was stopped in the hall to answer question by some reporters.
Senator Graham came in, introduced himself, spoke about how he grew up, and explained why he thinks he should be President. His speaking style was smooth and it seemed like he knew what he was going to say with every answer. That said, there wasn’t a tremendous amount of urgency in his voice. He would either look you in the eye or look at the ground:
After about five minutes, Mr. McCain came in, also slowed down by media requests for an interview. He went on to explain why he thought Mr. Graham should be President, including his foreign policy knowledge, ability to lead, and ability to compromise. He also threw this explanation in to say why he was there:
They spoke for about 20 minutes before taking questions from the crowd.
Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain worked well together, never talking over one another. What normally happened was this: someone would ask a question, Mr. Graham would answer, and then Mr. McCain would say, “Might I add,” before explaining his perception of the particular situation.
Both respectfully answered questions asked of them, though often very bluntly. One person asked whether the United States should pay for their actions in foreign lands, such as Iraq, by taking their oil. Mr. Graham responded that the idea was the “dumbest ever.”
Mr. Graham excoriated President Obama, calling him foolish on foreign policy, weak on the economy, and out of touch with the American people. To a noticeably lesser degree, Graham also called out Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who he sees as people who either can’t build a consensus or promise things that they don’t actually intend to succeed.
One of the most interesting answers Senator Graham gave came when answering a question about his statement that he would rather “lose without Trump than win with him:”
Overall, the impression that Mr. Graham gave was that of a man who was knowledge about foreign policy and a man looking to build a working government. To achieve his goals, however, Senator Graham would be willing to compromise some of his (and Republican) desires.
After speaking and answering questions for over an hour, Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain ended the town hall. They stayed for about half an hour afterwards, meeting people, shaking hands, and signing autographs for those who wanted them. I was able to meet both.
While I may disagree with some of their politics, they were courteous to me and the others at the gathering.
But now Mr. Graham has dropped out. Tomorrow, I’ll detail someone who, according to reports, is gaining steam in New Hampshire: Chris Christie.