Seven students from the political science department got the opportunity to take a trip to New Hampshire for the primary Thursday, Feb. 6 through Wednesday, Feb. 12. The trip was led by faculty members Linda Beail and Lindsey Lupo, PLNU professors of political science.
According to Beail, the idea for the trip, which was part of a class on the nominating process, came about last summer, when a colleague from Saint Anselm College, a center of the action of the state’s primary, invited Beail to bring students to participate in the events surrounding the primary.
Beail said the time she attended the Iowa Caucuses as a college student was very influential, and she wanted to create a similar up-close experience with candidates for her students that is often lacking in California.
“I wanted for them to have that kind of experience where you might get to see candidates in that retail, which we never get in California…” Beail said. “California is often late in the process. We’re the place people come to raise money. A lot of the campaigning is happening on television, not one-on-one, person-to-person.”
Beail said when they left for the trip, only a few items on the itinerary were nailed down. Throughout their time, unexpected opportunities, like attending the Feb. 7 Democratic Debate, arose. They also canvassed for either Pete Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren, attended campaign events for candidates, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Amy Klobuchar and went to more intimate meetings with candidates who were polling lower.
Senior international studies major Ashley Guzik said one of the unique opportunities from the trip was being able to see the candidates as human and interact with them, rather than just seeing them on T.V. She decided to sign up for the trip when it was spoken about in the fall at the political science department chapel.
“Throughout that entire trip, I saw the candidates less as candidates and more as human beings,” Guzik said. “In a big state like California, I think we definitely forgot about that. There’s definitely a disconnect. I think the debate was the first time where I’m like ‘these people are real people.’ As soon as the cameras turn off, you see them turn off too.”
Guzik and other students were interviewed by news outlets from around the world. Guzik ended up with a photo of her at a Buttigieg rally on the cover of the New York Times. Guzik is the secretary of Pi Sigma Alpha, the PLNU political science honors society, and president of Point Loma Dems.
Both Beail and Guzik said the trip created a tight bond among those who attended. When they weren’t out attending political events, they stayed in a house where they spent time discussing what they were experiencing, building snowmen, sledding and eating New Hampshire shaped pancakes, Guzik said.
Beail said she’s uncertain if the class will be offered again when the next primary roles around, as there’s a chance the nomination process may be changed and New Hampshire will no longer hold its current early position. According to Beail, this has to do with the issues Iowa experienced in their caucuses and the late rise of Micheal Bloomberg. Beail said evaluating if the current nomination process was the best was a part of the class.
“One of the things we had talked a fair amount about was ‘why do Iowa and New Hampshire get to go first?’” Beail said. “And there’s so much criticism of that… I wanted my students to be able to judge that for themselves, and the defense that’s often offered is that somebody small should go first, because that’s where candidates will spend time at the grassroots.”
According to Politico, the primary saw Sanders in the lead with 25.7%, with Buttigieg in a close second at 24.4% and Klobuchar in third at 19.8%.