MANCHESTER, N.H. — Now you see ‘em, now you don’t.
New Hampshire is saying farewell for another four years to its first-in-the-nation primary, with emotions as mixed as the jumble of campaign signs still stuck in snowbanks at every major intersection. While political junkies are sad to see the candidates shift south, many voters are relieved that their phones aren’t tied up by pollsters, their mailboxes are clear of glossy fliers and they can return to their regularly scheduled television programming. And for the campaign staff and volunteers? Sheer exhaustion, tinged with either elation or despair depending on the election results.
Here’s a look at New Hampshire’s post-primary hangover:
Campaign offices that were bustling with activity late into Tuesday night were largely quiet the next morning. At John Kasich’s headquarters, a FedEx driver knocked on the door and peered in the window in an unsuccessful attempt to deliver a package. Outside a closed Hillary Clinton office, a man who said he also was running for president complained about not getting any attention from the hundreds of reporters covering the primary. Empty coffee cups, soda cans and water bottles lined the counter at Jeb Bush’s darkened office early Wednesday, but by late morning, a handful of volunteers had arrived and was calling supporters in other states to discuss the primary results.
Ryan Williams, a Bush adviser who was overseeing those efforts, said the campaign will be redistributing stacks of leftover signs and other campaign material to other states and will be arranging for New Hampshire volunteers to help out in neighboring states as those contests approach. Top staffers already had left overnight. Williams was heading back to Washington.
“Most people are just exhausted. They’re looking forward to the plane ride to the next state so they can sleep,” he said. “You take time to reflect on what happened and how the results panned out, but then you have to refocus and get ready for the next contest. New Hampshire is an important state, but there’s a lot left.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES
As for the campaign signs scattered across New Hampshire, state law mandates their removal by Feb. 19, except for those advertising the primary winners — so Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders signs can stay put. But some are finding new life thanks to a recycling and repurposing project at the University of New Hampshire, where occupational therapy students are turning them into gadgets for people with disabilities. The signs will be cut up and fashioned into tabletop iPad stands and cellphone holders that can be attached to wheelchairs.
Associate professor Therese Willkomm said a few elections ago, she met campaign workers holding signs and a light bulb went off.
“One of the goals is to use ordinary items to create extraordinary solutions so I’ve always loved recycling materials like corrugated plastic to create assistive technology. It’s strong, inexpensive, easy to work with and lightweight for those who already have physical challenges,” she said.
THEY’LL BE BACK
New Hampshire has only four electoral college votes, but its status as a swing state means whichever candidates end up as nominees likely will return. In 2012, both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney lavished the state with attention. Romney came back almost every month from April to November that year, while Obama made four trips in the last two months of the campaign alone.
And don’t be surprised if potential 2020 candidates start popping up sooner rather than later. Many of those who appeared on Tuesday’s ballots made their first forays to New Hampshire at least two years ago.