WINDHAM, N.H. – The political circus arrived Tuesday at the local high school, where voters faced a gauntlet of placard hoisters, yard sign holders, reporters, cameramen, and a Senator Ted Cruz supporter with a Revolutionary War-style American flag on a 10-foot poll.
Stretching the length of a long sidewalk leading into a polling place, campaign volunteers shouted in basketball-game-like chants of “Mar-co! Mac-co!” and “We want Trump!”
Then came the celebrities: Ivanka Trump appeared with her husband, Jared Kushner. They stumped for Ivanka’s father, Donald Trump, the New York businessman running for the Republican nomination for president. One of the Trump’s campaign volunteers, Jodie Chapin, had Kushner’s ear, touching his arm as she gushed about his father-in-law.
“He says what everyone is thinking,” said Chapin, who drove from 38 miles from Northborough, Mass., to stand outside the polling place at Windham High School.
An hour earlier, US Senator Marco Rubio made a six-minute campaign stop here that touched off a frenzy. Dozens of Rubio volunteers did a call-and-answer chant, with a leader yelling “Marco” and the others shouting “Rubio.” The Trump supporters were outnumbered but did their best to puncture the Rubio chorus by bellowing, “We want Trump!” “We want Trump!”
When Rubio stepped onto the sidewalk, the senator was surrounded by a crush of photographers and reporters so large it clogged the path leading to the school. A voter got caught in the melee and complained directly to the senator, saying the crowd was forcing him to walk into the snow and he did not like the chants of Rubio volunteers.
“They were yelling at us on the way in,” the man told Rubio. “We don’t like that in New Hampshire. I changed my vote.”
Rubio turned to the man and said, “I’m sorry.”
Some voters embraced the sideshow. Beverly LaBarre leaned on her walker and offered two thumbs up to the Trump contingent. LaBarre was not going to let a cast on her foot stop her from voting for Trump, who she feels like she knows because of his reality television show.
“I watched him on ‘The Apprentice,’” LaBarre said. “I just think he’s so smart and he’s for the people.”
LaBarre’s daughter, Lisa, interjected.
“We need to stop these immigrants,” said Lisa LaBarre, who also planned to vote for Trump. “Get that wall built” along the Mexico border.
Her mother retorted, “That isn’t going to do any good. They are climbing over it.”
A 45-year-old real estate broker named Tammy Gazda said she voted for Trump because she liked his bravado.
“He has more conviction in his delivery,” Gazda said. “I don’t think I want a politician this time around.”
There were more than Trump voters in this town of 14,000 not far from the Massachusetts border. A woman in a red hat flashed a thumb down as she passed a Trump sign. Suzie Noyles, 76, cast her ballot for Governor John Kasich of Ohio because he followed through on a pledge to run a positive, issue-based campaign.
“They’ve thrown mud back and forth, but he has not joined in,” Noyles said. “Anybody that can hold his own for a year, that says something for him.”
There were even a few voters who cast ballots for Democrats in a town that local resident Neil Gallagher said leans heavily Republican.
“I voted for Hillary Clinton,” said Gallagher, 67, who brought his two grandsons to the polls. “We’ve got to break that glass ceiling for women.”
Nadjet Benzerrouk started as a Clinton supporter but cast her ballot for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The 32-year-old stay-at-home mom pushed her 2-month-old in a stroller as she explained her conversion.
“Listening to debates,” Benzerrouk said, “I liked his point of view.”