Political Tourists Make N.H. Their Vacation Spot

With so much campaigning compressed into one small state, New Hampshire is nirvana this week for fans of primary politics. NPR's Greg Allen ran into three self-professed "political junkies" from Baltimore who make a pilgrimage to the Granite State every four years to see the candidates up close and immerse themselves in the nominating process.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the days leading up to Tuesday's primary, with so much political activity compressed into such a small state, New Hampshire is pretty much nirvana for anyone fascinated by politics. Yes, all the candidates are there. But so are reporters, pundits, researchers, and as NPR's Greg Allen discovered, political tourists.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: I was interviewing attendees at a town meeting held by Jon Huntsman in Newport, out in western New Hampshire. When I started talking to Bob Feldman, I quickly found out he's not a typical New Hampshire voter. In fact, he's not from New Hampshire at all.

BOB FELDMAN: I'm here with my two friends from Baltimore because every four years - we're political junkies - and this is one of the rare times you can get up close and personal at a small rec center or a high school gym, and actually see professional politicians who could be the president of the United States someday.

ALLEN: For Dave Bathe(ph) it's his third New Hampshire primary. This year, he and Feldman recruited Jack Skurnick(ph), a friend from the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, where they all work. Feldman says they arrived Wednesday night and the fun began.

FELDMAN: We saw Newt Gingrich this morning. Where was that, Dave?

DAVE BATHE: Plymouth. Plymouth, New Hampshire.

FELDMAN: Yeah, we saw Newt Gingrich in Plymouth. And then at the Tilton Diner, Rick Santorum came through around one o'clock. And he got to us...

BATHE: Boy, you saw the Ravens sack and he reacted immediately to that. He says, of course, I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BATHE: ...and we want to beat you. Jack called him a Pittsburgh Squealer's fan, didn't he?

JACK SKURNICK: I did. I have to admit I'm a major Baltimore Ravens' fanatic. And it's hard to pass by a Steelers fan, since we are big rivals.

ALLEN: As vacations go, it's not for everyone; temperatures in the teens, hours on lonely roads, meals where you can find them. The Baltimore crew has run into other out-of-state visitors here for the same thing - hot and cold running campaign speeches, and a chance to press the flesh of people who most folks only see on TV.

For those who follow the election like the NFL season, it's a tailgating party and the big game all wrapped up in one. Feldman says he can't get this back home.

FELDMAN: Well, you know, in Maryland it's a pretty reliably blue state. So we don't get all of this stuff that you would get in a battleground state or an early primary state.

ALLEN: And as for their wives, well, they're just as happy to watch it all on TV.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Manchester, New Hampshire.

MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News.

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