16 Very Important Takeaways from the New Hampshire Primaries

What was Rubio's Super Bowl party like? How was the cake at Kasich’s 100th Town Hall? Here's what you missed.

Tom DAngora Hillary Clinton

Businessman Donald J. Trump and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders both won New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday. With a Trump victory and a Rubio fifth-place faceplant, the GOP establishment is in complete disarray. As for the Democrats, Bernie Sanders not only beat rival Hillary Clinton but also beat her by more than 20 percent.

What happened between Iowa and New Hampshire?

And I don’t mean what happened in the newspapers. I don’t mean what happened politically. I mean, what actually happened on the ground? What was it really like in New Hampshire as the political Establishment ran into an unprecedented brick wall of resistance?

Below, your questions, answered.

But first, a quick story…

On the campaign trail, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told an illuminating story:

When Christie was the U.S. Attorney, he took his daughter to New York to see Beauty and the Beast. While waiting in line for concessions, James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) tapped Christie on the shoulder and introduced himself. They chatted briefly before Gandolfini shook Christie’s hand, pulled him close, and whispered, “Remember something: it’s all make-believe.”

Now, back to your FAQ…

What Was the Worst Thing Handed Out by a Campaign?

The “Ted Cruz 2016 U.S. Pocket Constitution” with “States and Capitals, American Presidents, Fun History Facts, and More!” (Paid for by Ted Cruz for President).

What Was the Worst Thing Handed Out by a Super PAC?

A DVD copy of the 50-minute documentary “Citizen Carl: The True Story of Carly Fiorina.” Narrated by James Woods (Paid for by Carly for America).

What Was It Like Attending a Marco Rubio Super Bowl Party?

It was weird as hell.

The only political event in New Hampshire taking place during Super Bowl 50 was Marco Rubio’s Super Bowl party. The event was held in an indoor sporting facility called Ultimate Sports Academy. Ultimate Sports Academy is located in Manchester next to the Merrimack River, down a hill from the main road, behind a hospital, and beyond a parking garage.

Inside was a 9,500-square-foot, turf-covered, fluorescent-lit hangar where a massive flag covered the far wall. The press lined the back wall, their army of cameras set up in a giant semi-circle. In front of the cameras were wide semi-circular rows of folding chairs. Everything was facing a raised platform. Bookending the platform were two massive screens. Off to the side, folding tables were covered with food: sandwiches, soda, chips, cookies, cake. No alcohol. *

Marco Rubio entered, stood on the platform, performed his remarks, took a few pictures, and left about thirty minutes before kickoff. **

Then the sound of the Super Bowl broadcast filled the room. People try to rearrange the chairs so that they face the screens, but zip ties were connecting all the legs of the chairs (so that no one would steal one?). People gave up; people started leaving. I ask one attendee why he chose to spend the Super Bowl with Marco Rubio. He replied, “free dinner.” ***

* Later, a Rubio volunteer told me Super Bowl Sunday was an organizational mess. The morning after the Saturday debate (where Rubio was infamously taken down by Christie), the campaign was shocked that the crowds were bigger than ever. About a thousand people showed up to the 8:30 a.m. Rubio Pancake Breakfast. This, according to my source, turned into the Rubio Muffin Breakfast due to poor event planning. The big crowd surprises led to a last-minute venue change for the Super Bowl party (from the Derryfield Country Club to the Ultimate Sports Academy). A short while before the party started, the campaign realized that nobody ordered food. So my source sent her husband to Costco at the last minute and he bought the sandwiches, soda, chips, cookies, cake. No alcohol.

** Marco Rubio took fifth place in New Hampshire.

*** Jeb Bush took fourth place in New Hampshire.

Keith Thomas

Keith Thomas.

Who Stood Outside in the Cold and Sold Merchandise?

Every four years, Keith Thomas drives from Atlanta to New Hampshire with a car full of merchandise. In ’08 and ’12, Thomas sold Barack Obama merchandise. In ’16, Thomas sold Bernie Sanders merchandise. Thomas only sells the merchandise of candidates he supports, because Thomas doesn’t simply pocket the money he earns; he donates significant portions to the candidates.

At a rally in Portsmouth, Thomas says he earned enough to donate $400 to $500 to the Sanders campaign. The day before, he earned enough to donate $300.

Thomas keeps enough money for food and essentials. “Rice and beans.”

What Was the Jeb Bush Rally Like?

It was in the ritziest venue of any event I attended—by far. The Hannover Inn near Dartmouth. I parked in front of a J. Crew.

Later, Jeb asked the audience to “please clap.”

What Was the Donald Trump Rally Like?

The first thing I saw was a disheveled man in line for security. He slurred his words as he asked the Secret Service, “Can I bring in my knife?”

Later, Trump called Ted Cruz “a pussy.”

John Kasich Cake

Kasich’s Cake…egh.

What Did the Celebratory Cake Taste Like at John Kasich’s 100th Town Hall?

Ohio Governor John Kasich did 106 Town Hall events in New Hampshire, more than any other candidate running for president.

For Kasich’s 100th Town Hall, his campaign decided to go big. At the beginning, Kasich was introduced by former New England Patriot Mike Vrabel. At the end, two confetti cannons fired shredded paper out over the adoring crowd. To top it all off, the Kasich campaign rolled out not one, but five different Kasich cakes. The biggest cake was a four-level, red-white-and-blue monster, wrapped in Kasich-symbol ribbon that was made out of sugar.

I fulfilled my journalistic duties by trying the cake:

Half vanilla, half chocolate. Vanilla icing. Very moist, very sweet, maybe too sweet. A fellow journalist asked me how the cake was. I said, “Pretty good! Want a bite?” She shook her head, “No.” I don’t know why I offered her a bite of my cake; there were still three untouched cakes.

I enjoyed a few bites before I couldn’t stomach anymore. And that seemed to be a lot of people’s reactions. The trashcans at the exits were piled high with half-eaten cake. The staff picked confetti up off the floor. John Kasich won second place in New Hampshire.

What Songs Do Different Candidates Play at Their Rallies?

A sampling:


  • Sanders: The Trammps (“Disco Inferno”), Simon and Garfunkel (“America”), plenty of David Bowie
  • Clinton: Katy Perry (“Roar”), Taylor Swift (“Shake It Off”), Pharell (“Happy”), Jennifer Lopez (“Let’s Get Loud”)


  • Kasich: Rodney Atkins (“It’s America”), The White Stripes (“Seven Nation Army”), Journey (“Don’t Stop Believing”)
  • Bush: Rodney Atkins (“It’s America”), assorted country music
  • Rubio: Rodney Atkins (“It’s America”), ACDC (“Thunderstruck”)
  • Christie: Rodney Atkins (“It’s America”), Bruce Springsteen (“Born to Run”)
  • Trump: Luciano Pavarotti (“Nessun Dorma”), Rolling Stones (“Mother’s Little Helper” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) Elton John (“Tiny Dancer” and “Rocket Man”),  the Beatles (“Revolution”)

Future candidates, take heed: neither primary victor played Rodney Atkins’ “It’s America.”

What Bible Verse Does Ted Cruz Recite at Every Campaign Stop?

People say Marco Rubio is a robot. But as Ted Cruz talked, the man sitting next to me mumbled Cruz’s speech under his breath. Because he’s heard it all before. Joel Desilets of Goffstown, New Hampshire, has seen Ted Cruz speak four times. And he had a cigar with Cruz on a porch once. And Cruz filmed a short iPhone video message for Joel’s brother (who is a veteran).

Here is a line familiar to Joel, a bible verse that Ted Cruz almost always recites:

Second Chronicles 7:14 – If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

After this, Cruz almost always recites a story (one “that the mainstream media will never tell you”). The story goes that Ronald Reagan’s hand rested on this same Bible verse when he took the Oath of Office.

Joel also told me that Cruz makes his “skin crawl.” Joel also told me he is undecided: he’s between Rubio and Cruz.

Tom DAngora Hillary Clinton

Tom D’Angora at Clinton’s rally.

Who Led the Chants at Hillary’s Rallies?

Tom D’Angora did.

Tom D’Angora has been to “hundreds” of Hillary Clinton rallies and refers to himself as Hillary’s “O.G.” (Original Gay).

During an event in Manchester the day before the primary, D’Angora was on the risers behind the stage, firing up the crowd an hour and a half before the event started. Here are the chants of Tom D’Angora (the crowd’s responses are in italics).

  • Give me an H! H! Give me an I! I! Give me an L! L! Give me another L! L! Give me an A! A! Give me an R! R! Give me a Y! Y! What’s that spell? HILLARY!
  • Who do we want? Hillary! When do we want her? Now!
  • Who do we want as our nominee? Hillary! Hillary! Who will beat the GOP? Hillary! Hillary!
  • It’s time! It’s time! It’s time for a woman in the White House! It’s time! It’s time! It’s time for a woman in the White House!
  • When I say Madame, you say President. Madame! President! Madame! President!
  • I. I. I believe. I believe. I believe that. I believe that. I believe that she. I believe that she. I believe that she will. I believe that she will. I believe that she will win! I believe that she will win! I believe that she will win! I believe that she will win!

At the Clinton post-primary rally, I saw D’Angora front and center cheering Hillary with the passion of the most ardent sports fan and the love of the most devoted child.

What Actually Happens When a Candidate Stops by a Diner?

If you wanted to eat at Blake’s Restaurant on February 8, you were in for a rude surprise. If you were working at Blake’s Restaurant on February 8, you were in for an even ruder surprise. If you wanted to have Carly Fiorina, her staff, her Super PAC, her supporters, and the press corps all descend upon your breakfast on February 8, then Blake’s Restaurant was the place to be.

“Retail politics” is the term used to describe campaign events where candidates visit local establishments and “meet” voters face to face. Of course, these events are not really as casual and off-the-cuff as they seem. In reality, retail politics is mayhem. Awkward, choreographed, frustrating mayhem.

A look inside Blake’s:

An old-school family diner. It is 8 a.m. The place is absolutely packed. People who want Fiorina to interrupt their meals are marked with “Carly for America” stickers. People who just want to eat breakfast look upset when they realize what is about to happen. The waitresses mutter to each other; they are not happy.

Meanwhile, the Carly for America Super PAC is fanning out across the diner, engaging voters and engaging press. So active is Carly for America that it took me about 10 minutes to figure out who was with Fiorina for President and who was with Carly for America. To put it lightly, there was no difference.

The press is there too (honestly, god knows why). CNN’s Jake Tapper is moseying around waiting for an interview. He poses with different fans; he is gracious and fun and simmering with impatience. Carly for America reps tell the press that things are going great for Fiorina. They have people in 12 states. We nod our heads. It’s 8:30 a.m.

Soon after, the aggressively corporate-looking Carly Fiorina enters and immediately rushes into a packed back room to give a few remarks. The press crowds around the door (after they were asked so nicely not to do so).

Then Fiorina emerges from the back room to “casually” “mingle” with “patrons.” People swarm around her from all sides. It’s a claustrophobe’s nightmare. Fiorina squeezes into booths and smiles for selfies as her three dedicated staffers pull her toward Tapper, who guards the only exit. Tapper: the final obstacle.

The waitresses, mind you, are still at work. People are still ordering breakfast. The waitresses carry plates full of eggs as they dodge cameramen and boom mics and photographers. I ask one employee, “How’s it going?” She responds, with tired, frustrated eyes,  “Horrible. I forgot to ask for the day off.”

Carly talks to Tapper. Carly takes a picture with the staff. Carly leaves.

And all of a sudden, the dinner is empty. An angry old man berates a waitress: “We went in there ’cause you told us she’d come in there!” The waitress apologizes. The man responds, “We’re seeing Trump tonight.”

I stick around for breakfast. My waitress tells me she had no idea that was going to happen. Tapper orders breakfast to go: eggs in a Styrofoam cup. Salt. Pepper. Tapper exits.

What Does the “Star-Spangled Banner” at a Chris Christie Rally Sound Like?

What Does the Men’s Bathroom at a Ted Cruz Rally Look Like?

Ted Cruz Bathroom

What Was Watching TV Like?

I thought people in New Hampshire might be hyperbolizing about the amount of campaign ads that run on TV. But you really have to see it to believe it.

As I sat and worked in the Extra Touch Gourmet & Cafe in Bedford, Ellen was on TV. In the span of that hour I saw ads for (in order): Fiorina, Clinton, Trump, Cruz, Conservative Solutions PAC, Kasich, Rubio, Bush, Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, Bush.

Those are the ads I saw. I was working. With my head down. Pray for New Hampshire.

How Was the Press Room at the Hillary Clinton Primary Night Rally?

Hell. Forty-eight fold-out tables in 12 rows. Two medium-sized TV screens up front. The election is called for Bernie Sanders at 8:02 p.m. A loop of Hillary videos starts to play at 8:30 p.m. These videos include 1) little girls saying that they want to be president and 2) Hillary putting a new spin on an old favorite: “Gay rights are human rights. And human rights are gay rights” (this is heard three times in 15 minutes). The videos blare over speakers that not only crack, but also and pop in and out. I have a headache. It’s a nightmare.

The Wi-Fi is also a disaster, which is a problem since…it’s the press room. People keep looking at each other to ask if anyone has figured it out yet. One staffer is running around typing in a special password. It only works on some computers.

In the back are two plates of cookies. Three brown containers held warm, thin coffee. At 8:34, a staff member hands me a briefing titled, “Clinton’s Strong Support in South Carolina Continues with New Endorsements.” It was somber. I wanted to leave and see Jeb get fourth place.

But when the event started, the press literally ran out the door to see the Clintons.

At the event, I could barely hear Clinton over the roar of the crowd. She spoke with the American flag behind her. She looked like the president. She soaked it in, arms upraised. She reveled in it. Some of the press clapped. I clapped. It was exciting.

What Was Volunteering Like During the 2016 New Hampshire Primary?

45 for the 45th is a British organization whose mission is to increase political engagement among British youths. During the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Primary, the group sent 45 young Brits (18-25) to America to engage with, learn from, and participate in the American political system.

Many of the 45 ended up working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. They participated in phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, visibility efforts, and more. They attended Caucus night. They attended campaign events. They were not paid.

During a blizzard, some of them stood on a roundabout and waved Hillary signs. During that same blizzard, some of them slipped on the icy roads and got into a car crash. The car was wrecked. They had to be cut out of the car. One volunteer landed in the hospital.

On the day of the primary, three of the group’s young women were working at a polling station. They were waving Hillary signs, encouraging Americans to vote. Someone walking by, pointed to the group, and yelled, “Look at those retards. Filth.”

Later that day, they met Hillary Clinton. They took a picture with her. Over the course of their trip, they had become rather invested in a Clinton victory.

The 45 fly back the day after the primary. They will then write a report offering suggestions about how to use what they learned to engage British youth. They will show the report to elected British officials.


Photos from the New Hampshire Primaries