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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

There are the presidential candidates, and then there are the people doing the real work of campaigning. In New Hampshire, volunteers make phone calls, wave signs and knock on doors.

NPR's Robert Smith went out with supporters of Democrat John Edwards to get a view from the street level of politics.

ROBERT SMITH: The first secret of door-to-door campaigning is you have to get up early. The sun is just peeking over the buildings here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and already there's a couple hundred people here with the Edwards campaign getting stoked up and ready to go out and ready to knock on doors.

Unidentified Group: We want John.

Unidentified Man #1: Again.

Unidentified Group: We want John.

Unidentified Man #1: In New Hampshire.

Unidentified Group: We want John.

Ms. KAREN AYERS(ph) (Resident, New Hampshire): You need to be pretty upbeat when you're talking to people to influence them. So you need to be, you know, cheerful mood and have a smile on your face. It makes a big difference.

SMITH: What's your name? Where you're from?

Ms. AYERS: Karen Ayers, Hampton Falls.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. DAVID FROST(ph) (Resident, Portsmouth, Pennsylvania): What's the name of this street, Tom?

SMITH: Another secret of door-to-door campaigning, especially in these tiny New England towns, is to always go with a local.

Mr. TOM HOOVER(ph) (Resident, Lancaster, New Hampshire): We can walk right around, maybe we got another house on the other side.

SMITH: I'm walking the south side of Portsmouth with David Frost, who's from here and with Tom Hoover, who is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who's come into the state to campaign for John Edwards.

(Soundbite of knocking)

Unidentified Man #3: Oh, it was somebody knocking on my door.

Mr. HOOVER: How are you doing?

Unidentified Man #3: Good.

Mr. HOOVER: We're wondering if you have a favorite yet in the race or…

Unidentified Man #3: You know, I've been a Hillary supporter for a while…

Mr. HOOVER: Yeah.

Unidentified Man #3: …but somebody just called this morning saying who are you going to vote for on Tuesday, and this time I said Barack Obama so, yeah.

Mr. HOOVER: All right. Well, it's good to see you're taking an active role in this.

Mr. FROST: Thank you very much.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

SMITH: Do you ever think that perhaps you're being a little too nice? Don't you want to argue with him? Don't you want to take him down…

Mr. HOOVER: No.

SMITH: …and say come on?

Mr. HOOVER: I argue with my wife. I don't want to argue with - I think we question people and ask them to be sure about what they've decided.

SMITH: Hey, I think it's someone from another campaign. Who do you think it is?

Mr. HOOVER: Hello.

Ms. BRENDA SIEGELMAN(ph) (Resident, Portsmouth, New Hampshire): Hello.

SMITH: You're with?

Ms. SIEGELMAN: Richardson.

SMITH: You're not going to rumble with these John Edwards guys just because you're Bill Richardson?

Ms. SIEGELMAN: Do you want to arm wrestle or something then?

Mr. HOOVER: Oh no, that's okay.

Ms. SIEGELMAN: Okay. No they declined.

SMITH: What's your name?

Ms. SIEGELMAN: Brenda Siegelman.

SMITH: These guys can cover their ears because they're working for another campaign. I mean, what is the secret to effective door-to-door campaigning?

Ms. SIEGELMAN: Be nice, be friendly, be kind, and don't bug people if they want to be bugged.

(Soundbite of knocking)

SMITH: Melissa Costa(ph), how many people knocked on your door today?

Ms. MELISSA COSTA (Resident, Portsmouth, New Hampshire): Just two, so far, but it's morning.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: How about phone calls?

Ms. COSTA: Phone calls? We've had about three.

SMITH: So if you wanted a little peace and quiet, can you take the phone off the hook and just draw the curtains and pretend you're not home?

Ms. COSTA: I go upstairs and take out my hearing aids; then I can't hear them knocking.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SMITH: Well, I suppose come Wednesday, it's going to be awfully quiet around here.

Ms. COSTA: I don't think I'll miss them.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

Mr. HOOVER: Well, we'll finish up our canvassing and then we have another whole packet in the car.

SMITH: What are you going to do with your time, come Tuesday when this is all over?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOOVER: Well, hopefully it's going to continue, but I'm sure there'd be something…

SMITH: I'm sorry. I didn't mean to prematurely end your campaign.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOOVER: Hopefully, it's still the beginning. You just don't give up, just keep on and keep on.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

SMITH: Of course, the strange thing is that these two guys don't even know if what they're doing is working. They simply knock on doors, mark down whether the person is interested or not, or wants to receive more information, and then they cross their fingers. They won't know until Tuesday, when all of New Hampshire votes, if their efforts have been worthwhile.

Robert Smith, NPR News on the south side of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

MONTAGNE: You can follow the campaigns as they try to woo undecided voters in the final days before the New Hampshire primary with a video at npr.org.

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