Opinion: What Your Would-Be Presidents Are Like Behind the Scenes

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Susan Dromey Heeter photo

Bernie Sanders is pictured at the Women's March last month in Portsmouth

MANCHESTER – Welcome to the final Decoding the Vibe, the first-in-the-nation overview where my intention was and is to “invite you, dear reader, to join me before the rhetoric begins, before the backs straighten, the lights go on. I want you to come with me behind the scenes, watch the mic checks, meet the people who go visit presidential candidates.”

On your behalf, on behalf of InDepthNH.org, on behalf of all voters, I have been traveling around New Hampshire to provide you insight into the candidates here in New Hampshire.  Saturday night, 8 February, I travelled to the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner in Manchester which was essentially a wrap up, a Pep Rally for Democratic Candidates and the Democratic Party.

I would have liked to have seen a cheer routine with all of the candidates – some basket tosses and pyramids would have been astonishing but no such luck. And I would have even volunteered to be a fly girl.

 Alas, I witnessed excitement, hope and incredible energy.  It was very similar to the Netflix series, “Cheer” but, mercifully, no concussions or unfortunate drops. 

Below are the wrap-ups from all candidates, from their moments before the Pep Rally some sound bites for you from a busy year of campaigning to digest before you cast your vote on Tuesday.  They are in alphabetical order and I’ve noted when and where I saw them.

I thank you for allowing me in your life to give you my take, my insight, my view.  It’s been a pleasure being “boots on the ground” and inviting you to the Granite State and the first-in-the-nation primary.  

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaking on the State House lawn. Paula Tracy photo

Joe Biden

July 12, 2019

Dover, NH

The vibe of Joe Biden in Dover on Friday, 12 July at Castaways Restaurant and Lounge felt a lot like the drawer I have in my house we call the “everything drawer.” 

It’s got the half-started rolls of tape, the knee brace, matches, an empty Altoids box, scissors, chargers from flip phones, candles and the emergency flashlight that, of course, will not work in an emergency because the batteries have died.

I felt a bit like when I go to that everything drawer to look for zip ties and am let down – again – because the zip ties are in the garage.  

Biden began his speech with “I am the man who accompanies Jill Biden” and, like finding that user’s manual from the 1983 coffee maker, I recognized the line from JFK’s visit to Paris when he quipped, “I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.” 

Again, the vibe of Biden felt like the everything drawer.  Some things just need to be thrown out. I’ll never use that box of mug hooks and that half inch of tape left on the roll. It might come in handy at some point but may as well go for the new.

Mayor Pete meets supporters at Exeter Town Hall. Susan Dromey Heeter photo

Pete Buttigieg

24 May 2019

Exeter, NH

The vibe of the night felt safe, felt confident, felt orchestrated and contrived. Pete did not mention the name of the current leader of the free world, provided only subtle digs at Republicans and offered nourishment to a very thirsty crowd.

He answered questions from a fish bowl, seemingly at random but obviously vetted.  He offered a safe, no extra credit needed because you already have 100s kind of feel.

The Decoding of Pete’s Vibe?  Safe, nourishing, thoughtful, Midwest…slow and steady but solidly passing because I did my homework as soon as it was assigned.

And I’m in class early. Do you need a pencil? I have an extra.

 Pete Buttigieg – not sure how it’s pronounced? I’ve got that covered, too – Boot Edge Edge.

Tulsi Gabbard speaks to a group Wednesday night at the American Legion in Rochester.

Tulsi Gabbard

January 29, 2020

Rochester, NH

When Tulsi first arrived at the American Legion, she asked everyone to stand for the pledge of allegiance and invited all veterans to stand and be recognized. She’s tough, the vibe of Tulsi is soldier, combat veteran.

I saw Tulsi at the beginning of her run and like most candidates now, she looks tired. The vibe felt like the Christmas wreaths on my windows: fatigued but have served their purpose with gusto in December and January.

Tulsi is still stoic. She’s still strong. She’s still serious. But the energy of the night felt like a cold night in January: dark, cold, vague, long.

Deval Patrick is pictured Sunday speaking at the Teatotaller Cafe in Somersworth.

Deval Patrick

February 2, 2020

Somersworth, NH

The vibe of Deval Patrick on Sunday afternoon, the second of February, nine days before the first-in-the-nation primary, felt kind, felt warm, felt welcoming, felt smart. 

And those who work with Patrick were deeply kind, friendly.  I liked them. They gave the vibe of caring rather than, “What are you going to do for me?”

There are nine days left here in New Hampshire, it’s lovely being on the end of a long season and Patrick was someone I really had no interest in seeing. But the vibe?  He’s one to watch; he’s kind, he listens, he surrounds himself with good people.  

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is pictured speaking about healthcare in Dover December 28, 2019, at the Elks Lodge.

Bernie Sanders

December 28, 2019

Dover, NH

 So, here at my Decoding the Vibe desk, as there are six letters in “Bernie,” any question, statement or observation will be communicated in a tight package of six magic words.  

And in all of these moments, in all of these six words, the vibe of the crowd felt very much the same as the six words of those in attendance: Informed, Excited. Progressive. Worried. Hopeful. Approachable. 

And some of the more provocative six word statements from Sanders himself?

Expand Medicare Lower Eligibility to 55.

In first week: Medicare for All.

This is not a radical idea.

You are going to be covered.

Stop worrying about your rich friends.

Millions of people experiencing same pain.

We won NH by 20 points.|

We have won the intellectual debate.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to the annual Democratic gathering, the McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner at the SNHU Arena in Manchester.

Elizabeth Warren

15 March 2019

Exeter, NH

September 2, 2019

Hampton Falls, NH

December 7, 2019

Rochester, NH

Warren continues her own run, with facts and quick thinking and energy hard to beat. 

Warren answers questions with conviction, with facts, with knowledge that makes the current leader of the free world look like broken flip flops.

And while she wears black running shoes instead of winter boots, I suspect she glides over snow and ice, ready to tackle any storms and questions that come her way.

When Warren was asked about the need for a free and independent press, she remarked, “The president of the United States should not be criticizing the press, should not be withdrawing press credentials as punishment simply because he does not agree with the reporting.”

Warren’s basic premise: “Everyone should be informed.”

The vibe felt hopeful, hungry, ready.

The vibe of any event can be felt even before entering by virtue of checking out the cars parked outside.  On Monday, Sept. 2, Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke to a crowd that parked along the streets leading to a bucolic home in Hampton Falls.

There was not one truck, rather, lots of Subarus, Minis, Priuses. Windows sported Warren stickers, Rye Beach parking passes, pleas including, “Vote like your democracy depends on it,” and “Make America Green Again.” Bernie stickers were abundant as well as Pete 2020. 

 When I met the official Warren campaign workers, those who have decided to devote their lives to this campaign, my takeaway was that they were probably all National Honor Society members in high school or, as my Massachusetts friends would say, “wicked smaht.”

President Donald Trump

Donald Trump

August 16, 2019

Manchester, NH

 So, Decoding the Vibe was inside the Southern New Hampshire University Arena at the Trump Rally Thursday night. The music blared, the lights were bright, the sea of red hats abundant – it felt very show boaty, very hyped, very orchestrated.  

It felt very Deutschland Über Alles.

And the vibe? It was disconcerting. I’ve been to presidential events before – the first George Bush’s inauguration, events by Presidents Clinton, Obama. 

The vibe here felt about as presidential as a colonoscopy. 

GOP Presidential candidate Bill Weld chats with Decoding the Vibe columnist Susan Dromey Heeter at Dover’s Apple Harvest Day in Dover on Saturday.

Bill Weld

Weld referred to Trump as suffering from “malignant narcissism” and as one not “processing information” and with “zero preparation.”

The vibe?  Finally a Republican calling out the naked emperor.  What a relief. 

The vibe of Weld felt humane, felt realistic, felt like being in someone’s company who reads, who reflects, who truly believes. “There is no such thing as government money, it’s taxpayers’ money.”  

When asked by a friend, “Does he sound like a reasonable, sensible, respectable candidate?” 

My answer? Yes, yes, and yes.

Andrew Yang is pictured wooing the crowd at Portsmouth’s Gas Light Bar on May 10 in this file photo.

Andrew Yang

10 May 2019

Portsmouth, NH

Like a lot of presidential candidates, his educational resume is stellar.  But the vibe of Yang is something more; MATH smart.  Baseball caps embroidered with MATH were abundant and reflect one of his campaign slogans, “Make America Think Harder.”

Yang is charged and smart, wore a subtle but trendy scarf and the vibe of the room reflected his persona: young, hip, educated.  And while I am both hip and educated, those attracted to Yang were decades younger than I. 

Yang’s vibe is progressive, inclusive, and incredibly creative and smart.  His enthusiasm is not divisive, rather, an enthusiasm to Make America Think Harder, not left, not right, but forward.

The vibe?  Yang is one to watch.  He’s outside the box in a way that, whew, really charged, really evoked amazing insight.

And, well, that’s it.  You’ll note there are candidates I did not have the opportunity to meet, did not collect the vibe. Alas, dear readers, there is still time, still time.

Again, thanks for Decoding the Vibe. Please support local journalism, please support InDepthNH.org, please vote. 

Stump speech of Amy Klobuchar:

The opinions in columns and editorial cartoons do not reflect those of InDepthNH.org, its board of directors or underwriters.

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