As a political junkie it was always on my journalistic bucket list to cover Iowa & New Hampshire this year though it came to be below is the New Hampshire experience.
Friday February 5, 2016: Two days after returning from Iowa for the caucuses we loaded up the news car for the roughly 650 mile trek from Cleveland to Bedford, New Hampshire and took off just after 7 a.m.
New England had been hit by a sizable snow storm and we were driving in just behind it which made for some amazing scenes as the wet snow clung to the trees was illuminated by the setting sun behind us against the back drop of the storm clouds ahead moving north and east.
Our first stop was a town hall in Bedford, which was Governor John Kasich’s 100th since announcing his run for the White House 199 days earlier. We were there for that first town hall in July in Nashua so it was fitting we were there for the 100th.
When on the road covering these types of stories the two greatest words I can share with young reporters is WORK AHEAD. When you see the opportunity to get sound for a future story get it! Even if it never sees the light of day it can potentially save you when something falls through or at very least make your days to come a little easier.
With that in mind at the town hall I took advantage of the opportunity to talk with Kasich co-chair, former New Hampshire U.S. Sen. John Sununu as well as Kasich’s Senior Strategist John Weaver for future stories.
We would be live at 11 p.m. and tape a look live for the Saturday morning show before checking into our hotel in a converted shoe factory in Manchester. (If you’ve never been to Manchester a great deal of the town’s manufacturing past is preserved with so many of the red brick buildings converted to new uses.)
Saturday February 6, 2016: Our long day started early with a trip over to the campus of St. Anselm’s University to pick up our credentials for that evening’s GOP Debate on ABC.
From St. Anselm’s in Manchester we drove out to Portsmouth to meet with Ruth Griffin, the 90 year old political matriarch of the GOP with a rich New England accent. The sun was bright on the drive south and east to the coast with the snow clinging to the trees the scene outside Griffin’s clapboard home was vintage New England.
I first met Ruth back in July when she was still undecided on who she would support. If you want to run for president as a Republican, you come to New Hampshire and visit with Ruth and so at 11 a.m. we did.
Once again in the working ahead mindset it’s a story that would air Sunday night at 11 p.m. knowing that with the Super Bowl on there would be nothing else going on. We did live at 11 and then taped a looked live version for Monday’s morning show.
After leaving Ruth’s home we headed straight for Kasich’s field office in Manchester where his campaign bus would be arriving at 1 p.m. to allow him to greet supporters who were getting ready to head out and go door to door canvasing.
The number of media on hand was large so that when the bus pulled up and Kasich stepped out the cameras formed a large semi circle while John Roberts of Fox, myself and the other reporters crouched down in the front holding out the microphones a maneuver that takes its toll on your knees.
We would then go back to the hotel where I would edit that story then get ready for the debate, take the shuttle to St. Anselm’s and front it from inside the media filing center for the 6 p.m. news.
After the 6 o’clock live shot it was a chance to catch our breaths until the debate started at 8 p.m. This is when I edited the Ruth Griffin piece for Sunday and took a look at the other sound I had gathered.
The debate turned out to be the turning point in the race with Chris Christie’s cross examination of Marco Rubio the highlight leaving the door open for Kasich to have his best debate performance of the evening.
Our plan was to turn reaction from the Spin Room for the 11 p.m. but when it became clear that wasn’t going to happen because the debate wouldn’t wrap up in time I grabbed John Sununu quick and turned a quick interview with him to feed back and front that minutes later.
After the 11 p.m. I began to gather sound for the morning show when one of Kasich’s people grabbed me and asked me if I’d like to talk with him, so they pulled me over and after he finished with one of the networks we had a chance to discuss the debate which we would send back for Sunday morning’s show.
Sunday February 7, 2016: No rest for the weary we were out the door early to make our way to Nashua for Kasich’s first post debate town hall. The crowds were bigger and the media more prominent, Jonathan Karl from ABC News, John Heilemann and Mike Barnicle among others.
I would grab sound with Heilemann (working ahead) then put together the town hall for 6 p.m.
With the Ruth Griffin story airing at 11 p.m. this was the first real chance we had to relax since arriving so my photographer and I had a sit down dinner and watched part of Super Bowl 50 on a phone propped up on the table.
Monday February 8, 2016: Another early start headed out to Plaistow, NH for the first of four town halls for the day. He gaggled with reporters after, sound I would use for my 6 p.m. story. My 4 p.m. would be sound I got with Dr. Ben Carson right after the debate (working ahead) and my 5 p.m. would be on the impact of the weather on election day.
From there we headed north to Hooksett, to a place called Robie’s General Store set along railroad tracks it had been for years a political stopping off point and it was here that Kasich chose to rally his supporters one last time and send his campaign bus off to South Carolina.
Tuesday February 9, 2016: Election Day: Once again an early start as we met up with Kasich at a Manchester polling place to greet poll workers and supporters. The gaggle of media was thick around him so much so that my photographer had to shoot the governor with the camera atop of his head not even knowing if he was in frame. This setting made up most of our 5 p.m. story.
As the governor and his entourage made their way back to their motorcade my cameraman and I made our way back to our car as the motorcade drove by Kasich stopped and rolled down his window waving my cameraman off we talked privately which was really my first indication of the big night ahead for him.
From the school we went to a local Manchester diner where Sirius radio was hosting its political shows all day. Kasich was there to appear on Michael Smerconish’s show. In the many degrees of separation Michael and I both worked on the Frank Rizzo mayoral campaign in Philadelphia in 1987.
Outside after I had a chance to talk with Kasich on camera and this made up our 6 p.m. report.
From the start of the poll results coming in Kasich was in second place, a lead that would hold through the night with Fox calling his second place finish. He was ready to address his supporters early but had to wait for Clinton, Sanders and Trump to finish to ensure the networks would take his speech live.
This unfortunately left us little time to turn the sound for 11 p.m. Nevertheless we make it simple and quick and got it fed back just in time for air.