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Carrie Giddins Pergram, founder of GiddyUp! Communications and American University Communications Professor, brought a handful of her students to experience the primary election in Manchester, New Hampshire earlier this week. We are used to seeing the political mayhem unfold through the lenses of nationally renowned news outlets like Fox and NBC, but we seldom get the opportunity to experience political events through the untainted eyes of young students.

Four American University students, Steven HadererBrynn Freeland, Matt Waskiewicz, and Stephen Cobb relayed their experiences to us.

The Mecca of the Political Universe: The Manchester Radisson

By Steven Haderer, Public Communication, American University ’16

MANCHESTER, N.H. – After months of glad-handing in diners, answering questions in broad strokes at town halls in remote cafeterias, and cheering with yard signs outside of churches, the heart beat of the New Hampshire Primary on election day pulsed through the Manchester Radisson. Among the things you could see at 5pm in the lobby:

Sam Clovis, national co-chair for Donald Trump’s campaign, ambling slowly with his distinctive gait, headed to the Bloomberg set for an interview.

Tom Brokaw slowly pacing through the lobby multiple times, quietly, inconspicuously and uninterrupted.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski live on MSNBC outside of TJ’s Tavern off to the side of the lobby. Once they went off-air, they were quickly shuttled through the masses in a conga-style line back toward the MSNBC HQ.

political mecca

Manu Raju from CNN walking in, out and around the Rubio watch party ballroom briskly, with no clear intent.

Kasie Hunt from NBC racing furiously up the wheelchair ramp with her bags headed towards the NBC workspace.

David Drucker from the Washington Examiner munching on French fries and catching up on email outside the Rubio election night party ballroom . . . stylish pocket square included.

Tamron Hall from NBC wearing thigh-high boots to trek out of the lobby into the cold Manchester night.

Jay Newton Small being kind enough to entertain a group of American University students in the closed lobby cafe as the hustle and bustle was hitting its stride.

No one looking for the Chris Christie ballroom for his election night party…it may be on the second floor.

And of course, a staple in New Hampshire politics, the New Hampshire Rebellion folks, standing proudly in the lobby with their Revolutionary War hats and campaign finance picket signs.

A Young Journalist’s Guide to the New Hampshire Primary

By Brynn Freeland, Masters in Political Science, American University ’16

Covering the first in the nation primary is anything but glamorous. Sure you get to see the Chris Matthews, Donna Braziles, and Megan Kellys of the world walk by at any given notice. And there is the excitement of the Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton motorcade driving by. And then there’s the random celebrity that shows up at a town hall meeting to support their candidate and friend. But, behind the scenes there are sleepless nights, long car rides, and even longer days. On top of that, the young aspiring journalist is often times over shadowed by the local and national news reporters, whose credentials and clout are more impressive than the number of times Vermin Supreme has campaigned for President of the United States. So how does a young journalist survive the New Hampshire Primary?

1. Remember it’s February.

It’s winter! Winter in New Hampshire is not winter in DC or the south. There is bound to be an unexpected snow storm or the temperature to be unbearably frigid. So ALWAYS be prepared. You will spend a lot of time outside and you don’t want to be walking around with frost bitten toes and fingers. You will be miserable, you will be hurting, and writing on your notepad? Nearly impossible. Hand warmers are your best friend!

2. Don’t expect to get into every event.

Campaigns receive hundreds of media requests to get in the door to cover these events. If you don’t RSVP ahead of time, good luck getting in. If you don’t have a plug with campaign staff, you might as well just save your gas. If your press pass doesn’t say CNN or Fox News, you might be overlooked. If you don’t show up early enough to check-in as press, by the time you get there the Fire Marshall is ready to shut down the event because the location has reached its maximum capacity.

3. Don’t be afraid of rejection.

Yes, you are young. No, you do not have years of journalism experience under your belt, but your questions are just as important as the veteran standing next to you. You have to be proactive to get that interview, and to shake that candidate’s hand. Don’t be afraid to yell out the first question. Don’t be shy to ask that passionate voter why he/she came out to the polls. When you are assertive you meet the most interesting people, and sometimes create that career opportunity you can’t get anywhere else.

4. Always be professional.

It is very easy to be lost in the moment and you can forget you are there to report, not to “fan girl.” We are all human, and we all have our personal political views and preferences. Which is totally fine. But as a young journalist, you have to remember that you are there for one job, and that is to report. First impressions are everything in this business! And you don’t want George Stephanopoulos’s first meeting with you to be a sour one. This business is too small, everybody knows everybody, and you don’t want to end your career before it has even begun.

5. What you give is what you get.

The New Hampshire Primary is one of the only places voters are able to have intimate interactions with the presidential candidates. You can’t get this anywhere else. With that in mind, you have to make the experience your own. You have to go out to the little candy shop or the local bar to find the hidden story. You have to create your own opportunities. Go up to the C-SPAN team, introduce yourself, and just have an honest conversation. You have to get out of your comfort zone, force that presidential candidate to see you and then ask that pressing question. Go the extra mile to get that footage of protestors arguing with Rubio supporters.

6. You are a part of something bigger than yourself.

Most of all, you have to know that at the end of the day, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. And after the sleepless nights, long days, frustrating moments, and crazy encounters, it is all worth it. Because seeing your name on the Boston Globe website, or writing an amazing story about that voter who is relying on you to tell their story, makes the chaos all worth while.

Lester Holt reporting from outside the Radisson in downtown Manchester, NH

Photo by Matt Waskiewicz, American University


Getting Candid with the Cannabis Cop

By Stephen Cobb, Political Communications, American University ’17

On Monday February 8, Ted Cruz addressed a crowd of around 150 loyal supporters and undecided candidates at American Legion Sweeney Post 2 in Manchester, New Hampshire. The Cruz meet and greet attracted a wide array of spectators: young, old, locals and out-of-towners. One stood out among the rest. Retired police detective Howard Wooldridge is the co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization that lobbies for the protection of the tenth amendment. I spoke to Wooldridge, also known as the Cannabis Cop, about his views on the legalization of marijuana.

Cannabis CopCan you tell me a little about the shirt you are wearing and what Cops Say Legalize Pot means?

It’s good marketing. It just gets people thinking. It makes people think about the drug war, the war with marijuana. It also gets people to ask me about it.

We can arrest more pedophiles, drunk drivers, and terrorists if we don’t waste time on a green plant and Willie Nelson and his friends. Secondly, it eliminates that job option that every child and teenager has to sell, which gets several shot and killed every week.

That’s two reasons of many.

Why are you so passionate about this cause?

As a police officer myself, it is very painful in my professional career to see teenagers shot and killed or hurt because they are involved in the drug trade.

How long have you been a police officer?

Eighteen years. I’m a retired detective now.

Have you had to arrest teenagers for possession that you feel should not have had to go to jail? What is the solution to this?

Certainly, but drugs will always be a problem. The easiest way that we can fix it is by changing the approach about how we deal with it. The best policy is to treat marijuana like alcohol. We are dealing with a prohibition on alcohol.

Have you talked to any of the candidates about this?

Yeah, I’ve talked to Mr. Cruz several times, Mr. Bush several times, Mr. Kasich several times, and I have colleagues that have spoken to others. We have just been asking their position on the Tenth Amendment and whether or not they would protect states like Colorado from having their laws changed against the will of the people. We need a candidate that will respect these states’ rights. Most are positive… except Mrs. Clinton. She is just horrible. Rubio is horrible, and Chris Christie is horrible.

You mentioned being able to speak with Cruz, Bush and Kasich. Did these candidates agree with you?

Yeah,  they read the shirt and listened to what I had to say and said that they could get behind the Tenth Amendment. They will not try to change the laws of the states that have legalized marijuana.

Do you think you are making a difference here?

Yeah, I am confronting candidates to make sure that they uphold the Tenth Amendment in Colorado. This should be an adult right like fire arms, gambling, and tobacco. It should be the individual making the decision, not the government trying to control anybody.

Do you yourself partake in the recreational use of marijuana?

I have not smoked in 35 years, since Michigan State. I have not smoked since college. I had hair down to here! You’ve seen pictures of your dad or granddad, yeah that’s me.

Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi shows off his best Nixon impression

Photo by Matt Waskiewicz, American University