Ten days ago, in Nashua, New Hampshire, Barack Obama gave what had become his standard, sluggish 2012 appeal to a passive crowd of 8,000 voters. A week later, up the road in Concord, though, the confidence of 2008 was back. The crowd of 14,000 had that old Hopey and Changey buzz. Standing stage left were the Davids Axelrod and Plouffe looking very happy to be on the verge of another victory. He closed the campaign with Jay Z, who is obviously now a socialist. What had changed in the interceding week? Had Sandy jolted Barack Obama back in line, even as it had, to borrow Nate Silver's observation, "blown Romney off course"?
Mitt Romney campaigned in the state Saturday, too, making an appearance in Portsmouth. The corporation running the campaign, Romney Victory, is made up of a bunch of people, too. Many of them were at the rally with the realities of the electoral college mapped on their weary but still smiling faces. "I've watched this go from a start to a movement," Romney told the crowd of 2000.
Campaigning in the state back in January (it seems like eons ago), Romney had been the fun candidate, the confident alternative to Rick Santorum; that's when he was just developing his shtick for breaking into patriotic hymns. Now he seemed practiced, tired. Then last night he held one final rally in Manchester at the local arena with Kid Rock. Nothing makes local cops act more thuggish than being subcontracted out to the Secret Service at a Republican shindig. Outside, Manchester PD muscled around the crowd, which was made up mostly of families. Inside, I got arrested for being in a non-press area. Sadly, the corporation-people movement looks to be ending tomorrow in Boston at campaign HQ, where Romney Victory is taking the unprecedented step of charging reporters $1,000 just to cover the event. Anticipating a loss anyone?
Looking back over the season, and then being face to face with the candidates these past few weeks in New Hampshire, I've attempted to find the truthiest version of the presidential race possible. As the campaigns ran out their final hours, most of the election's talking points were moot. Super PACs haven't been nearly the force some feared. And social media is proving a non-factor. What seems to have been the keys to winning? Face-to-face contact with voters: large-scale canvassing operations run by BlackBerry-wielding operatives from hundreds of swing-state field offices.
Wait, the BlackBerry and door-to-door vote salesmen? Not iPads and Tweets? This ground game change is a perfect example of the post-future. All the white noise has numbed voters: the blitz of phone calls, emails, texts, FB messages and Tweets has driven swing staters mad. Especially in New Hampshire, which has been in full election mode for 18 months. It's been an unprecedented season here. Never has there been so much action so late. No 360-degree public view is without a poster, sticker or lawn sign. Meanwhile, in New York, it's been hard to find any Obama-Romney propaganda, even making allowances for the distraction and hardships of Sandy. Unlike 2008, there are no yuppie babies in Obama jumpers.
In honor of those operatives and field teams, here's the last few weeks of the 2012 in photographs, with commentary typed out on my RIM phone. None of the pics below have been cropped, photo shopped or retouched.
Undecided women. These are the main target in New Hampshire, and they tend to not answer the phone and are thus hard to poll. I met these women were at a Pimps and Hos Halloween Party at a Manchester nightclub. Most were leaning Romney, and he should carry the animal-print-skirt demographic.
￼The Obama campaign runs out of this building. About 100 people are working here full time, half for the national Obama for America corporation and half at the state level.
You are not allowed to work for Obama if you are over 30 years old.
The Islamic Society of Greater Manchester is in the basement of Obama HQ. Further proof Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist.
This is called "literature" in campaign speak. It's really just "propaganda."
￼This is called a "driveway" in New Hampshire, where people love anything with a motor, be it a motor home, a green bug with a white hood or a truck with a lift. For some reason these people can't decide who to vote for. Probably because they are too busy trying to decide which awesome mode of transport to use on a given day.
￼President Obama drives one car every day. He's the decider-in-chief and wishes everyone was decisively voting for him. It's a weird car that would look normal in a New Hampshire driveway, were it painted the color called "off-rust," had a Bruins sticker where the Presidential seal is and was missing a tire.
Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett listens to her golden child in Nashua. She's arguably the most powerful woman on Earth. Her sweater matches a Louis Vuitton bag that was the roughly the same size of the three babies Obama kissed that day. I asked, and of course Jarrett uses a BlackBerry… with a super-size battery! When I asked if Obama was going to win, Jarrett said "Absolutely."
￼The prez! Shaking Obama's hand on the rope, I asked if he was the same Jordan-in-the-fourth-quarter as he's likened himself to in previous elections. Obama laughed. "You know it!" said the closer about to win one last championship for Chicago.
These girls put on lipstick to see Mitt Romney at an airport in Portsmouth.
The only cool thing about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are his gator skin boots.
Mitt hugs New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, who has been stumping for him since the very beginning. When asked if Mitt was going to win, one staffer admitted the path to victory was "narrowing," which is campaign speak for "we're fucked."
The White House women pose for a picture in Concord. All of them were wearing knee-high boots, although none as cool as Jindal's.
Here's Jarrett again, posing for a picture with Obama speaking behind her. Note the purple LV bag is a foot tall. Also: she's wearing a Louis Vuitton cape, like a witch! Maybe she created the Franken-Obama who emerged in the last week? Oh right, she did.
￼What we worry? The Davids Axelrod and Plouffe both wearing, yes, Camp David jackets, smiling away as their guy stumps in Concord. These two ran the perfect campaign in 2008. Then somehow completely blew it while Obama was president. Most Americans don't think Obama accomplished much. Facts show otherwise. The first-term disconnect falls largely on these bros' inability to communicate Obama's successes. But I guess if they win it doesn't matter.
Bill Clinton and Obama post-rally heading to greet voters. Seeing these two together makes me proud to be an American. For once.
The Boy Scouts demonstrate GOP family values at the Romney rally in Manchester.
Kid Rock's dancer demonstrated GOP family values at the same rally.
Kid Rock may suck as a musician, but as a human he's pretty fucking cool. Homeboy came out in a fur coat.
Mitt pleads his case. Usually I'd be pretty neutral on this stuff, but I'm really hoping this is the last I see of him for a long, long time.