A Tale of Two Town Halls

As we drove up to a small church, somewhere outside of Manchester, NH, the snow was already falling ferociously. I wondered if the town hall would be cancelled due to the snow . After all, if it snowed this much in Charlotte, the city would be shut down for a week. Nonetheless we were told the Governor Kasich never misses his town halls.

Our Wake the Vote cohort packed the first few rows of the church and waited to hear from the governor. The room was filled with New Hampshire voters still trying to decide who to vote for in their primary that was less than twenty-four hours away. Cameras and reporters packed the sides and back wall of the church.

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After the pledge of allegiance and a brief introduction by his wife, Governor Kasich walked out of a side room and into the spotlight. In his opening remarks he told us that he was not here to “give a pitch for (his) vote, but rather a pitch”. He opened the floor to questions from the audience. When answering questions, he frequently cited his experience with said issue as either governor of Ohio or from his time on Capital Hill. There was no doubt from anyone in the room that this man had experience in office. The governor empathized how he was a “uniter, not a divider”.

 

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The highlight of the Q&A was when a young college age woman asked why she should vote for Kasich instead of Clinton or Sanders. Kasich joked that “the only thing that Bernie Sanders should be president of is Ben & Jerry’s. Then we would all get free ice cream”.

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After Governor Kasich had finished speaking, he stuck around to take photos and talk to potential voters.

 

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There was always media around that liked to get young voters perspectives on the election.

 

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That afternoon, we loaded up the vans for our second town hall of the day. The snow was coming down hard at this point. Governor Christie’s rally was in a much bigger Catholic Church than the rally we had attended earlier in the day. This rally had the nicest volunteers of any campaign event I have been to during the Wake the Vote experience. All of the volunteers greeted us and they made sure that the seven of us were able to find seats. This was especially helpful given the square seating arrangement that was set up for the town hall.

Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro was at the town hall to introduce his good friend, Chris Christie. When Governor Christie came out he introduced each of his children as well as his wife. He then let the crowd know that he would answer any and all questions that were thrown at him; and that he did. Governor Christie fielded questions for over two hours! There was even a question about FAA regulations that he was unable to answer. Instead of giving a typical political answer and avoiding the question, he got the woman’s email address so that he could research the topic and give an answer. Another exciting moment of the night was the exchange Christie had with a pro-legalization audience member. When asked if he would sign off on a bill that legalized marijuana, Christie responded with a firm “NO!” He then gave his reasoning for why he would not legalize marijuana. Surprisingly, he then handed the mic back to the person who had asked the question, so that person had a chance to respond to what Christie said. The two went back and forth for a couple minutes until Christie thanked the guy for his enthusiasm to the issue.

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After Governor Christie finished talking, he stuck around for pictures. He was making jokes with the crowd and engaging everyone in a way that not many famous people do. He stuck around until every single person that wanted a picture with him got one. He asked me what brought me at to the town hall, and I was able to tell him about Wake the Vote.

 

The next day was about to be a great day for the Kasich campaign and a pretty disappointing one for the Christie campaign. It’s crazy how two similar candidates could have such different fates based on one primary. What started as a large Republican field is finally winnowing down. It will be interesting to see how things play out in South Carolina next week. 

 

-Carl McPhail

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