Now that the numbers are in

I’ve long worried about the influence of political surveys on the elections themselves. That is, any scientific purpose they claim still pollutes the subject they’re investigating. And that’s before we get to candidates who remake their image and message to fit popular opinion, even if it doesn’t change their behind-the-scenes policies one whit.

As humans, we like to be on the winning side, after all, and published surveys add pressure in that direction. On the other hand, the opposing camps just might react by ramping up their anger and energy in a drive for an underdog upset. In that regard, the survey findings are more like the betting odds given on a sports event.

These elections should be more than a game or an entertainment ratings number. They’re too important for that.

I was happy to see that in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, many voters stuck to their convictions. Nobody saw Amy Klobuchar’s rise coming, but many were impressed seeing her face-to-face or in what they heard from others who had. The other supporters we met were generally soft-spoken but firm in their decision. Frankly, I was usually amazed to realize we weren’t alone, that there were others who had come to the same decision. I’ll confess we were bracing for the worst when the election results started pouring in. Now we’re feeling some vindication, and definitely smiling.

The irony here, of course, that her climb to a third-place finish now puts her in a spotlight that is expected to sway other primary results down the line.

We’ll just have to see how it all adds up.

What we’re looking for in a potential nominee

Each presidential primary season, I’m amazed by the number of people who file to run in the New Hampshire race even though they have little or no political experience. Yes, we have them again this leap year.

They have no hope of winning or usually even adding anything useful to the conversation.

Even among the serious candidates, I’ve come to see that having good ideas is not enough to make for a viable president. A commanding presence, leadership skills (including an ability to listen and accept critical positions from your inner circle), and effective organization are also essential. Quite simply, is this someone with traction as a nominee?

Political experience is also crucial. Directing a major corporation is not the same as managing a public enterprise. Some states and cities have budgets and work forces rivaling big businesses, but the dynamics are quite different. I do wish some of the billionaire candidates, hopeful as they are, had chosen to run for a governorship or Congress first, get their feet wet and learned through OJT.

So here we are, shaking things out.

This folksy trend seems to be spreading

Anyone else struck by the number of presidential candidates running on a first-name basis? Pete, Amy, Bernie, Tulsi, Tom, Beto, and for a while Kamala. In contrast to those who run on their more formal surnames. You know, the folksy thing. Or at least something easier to remember. It works if your moniker isn’t too generic, say like John or Mike or Mary, I guess.

It’s not entirely new. I mean, historically there was Honest Abe and Teddy the Rough Rider and later Ike and Adalai and then Hillary. Or even the initials, JFK and LBJ.

In local elections, our neighbor recently won the mayor’s seat. Well done, Bob.

Catching up on the campaigns

I had hoped that this would be the presidential primary year when I would finally be able to get out and meet the candidates – all of them – face to face. Get a measure of them. In the past, I was usually tied up at the office or in other scheduling conflicts.

In New Hampshire, many of the campaigns start out with house parties, where the candidates talk informally in people’s living rooms, or in fraternal lodges or town halls and the like, and then build up to larger venues. Since the televised debates often screen out those candidates struggling in the survey polling, serious voters will seek out opportunities to give everyone a chance to be heard and considered. This is, after all, grassroots politics.

Somehow, my calendar in the fall and early winter filled up with other activities. So I decided I’d devote the weeks just before and after the Iowa caucuses to the project. What I discovered, though, was that almost all of the remaining events were now scheduled in Merrimack Valley, over an hour away from the seacoast region where I live – that is, they’re in Manchester, Nashua, and Concord. And the U.S. senators in the running were all stuck in the impeachment hearings in Washington.

Well, there have been some surprises since then.

One was on Tuesday afternoon, the day after Iowa, when Amy Klobuchar spoke at South Church in Portsmouth. I attended and am glad I did. The sanctuary was packed, every seat on the main floor, and she really delivered. I had a much better appreciation for her as a presidential contender. Actually, she was amazing.

And Sunday afternoon, Pete Buttigieg appears at the middle school here in Dover. I’m planning to be there, for perspective, if nothing else.

I do regret not starting on this project earlier. I’m left wondering about those who simply failed to connect, what we’re missing.

Still, we’ve met with some interesting and devoted volunteers who’ve canvassed at our front door. And we’ve been following the local news. So it goes, down to the wire.