On Saturday, Feb 6, a group of 60 plus Irish American supporters of Hillary Clinton trekked to the snowy streets of New Hampshire for a day of lobbying, three days before the Granite State primary. They departed FitzPatrick’s Hotel in New York at 7 a.m for the four hour drive. Spirits were high.
Made up of Irish American Democrats and students from Fordham, Columbia and New York University, the group made door-to-door calls in a state where polls still show Clinton’s rival Bernie Sanders ahead, although reports on Sunday evening reveal his lead to be shrinking.
On board the bus were stalwarts such as Stella O’Leary founder of Irish American Democrats who has been supporting the Clintons since the early 90s and John FitzPatrick, a dedicated Clinton supporter for just as long. Washington based activist John McCrthy brought along many students and set the schedule..
“She is the best I’ve ever seen,” said FitzPatrick “and this country needs her again,” he said.
“We can also never forget what she and Bill did in Northern Ireland.”
Others had personal reasons. “One of the main reasons I'm here is because in 2008 my younger brother Sergeant Shane Patrick Duffy was killed in Iraq and, although some people may question Hillary's initial vote, there's no question of the support that she showed to my family,” said Keavin Peter Duffy Jr, from Massachusetts, one of the many people who traveled with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to help the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire.
“There's no question of the support that she showed to my family ... she made sure to call and check in on my parents.”
Duffy was just one of the thousand volunteers the Boston Mayor had brought with him as he met with voters in Manchester, NH. On arrival at one of the Clinton campaign base at 11am Saturday morning, the group was met by Mayor Walsh, who spoke to the volunteers about Clinton’s foreign policy, especially in comparison with that of the GOP hopefuls.
“That’s what the difference in this race is,” he told them, before they set out canvassing.
“When we look to the Republican side there is nobody on the Republican side at all that has the foreign policy with the exception of saying we’re going to build a 700 mile wall around America and that doesn’t solve the problem of isolation.”
Read more: Hillary Clinton will visit Ireland in 2016.
The center had already seen 500 volunteers step through its doors before the arrival of the Irish American group, with thanks to the massive support shown by Walsh.
As somebody experiencing a US Presidential campaign for the first time and coming from a country (Ireland) that will this year experience its shortest ever general election campaign – starting after the Iowa caucus and finishing again before Super Tuesday on March 1 – the level of commitment shown by volunteers in all of the campaigns seems astounding. Some of the mayor’s staff were even technically on vacation so they could work on the Clinton presidential run. It did make me wonder what could be achieved if candidates didn’t spend as much time campaigning, however, and all these people dedicated to making the country great didn’t have to use their talents on marathon elections.
Following their motivational speech from the Mayor, the group took to the Manchester streets donning their Irish Americans for Hillary badges, to brave the snow on street corners with Clinton signs or to slide through the icy sidewalks to deliver literature, a Washington Post article extolling Hillary.
Those who I walked with were a mixture of students and more seasoned Democrats, all of whom were happy to take the risk on the ice or on a Republican doorstep.
More recent polls have shown a tendency of younger women to support Clinton’s rival Sanders, despite the claims of Madeleine Albright that there’s a “special place in hell” for these particular women and any others who don't support the female candidate.
For many of the young female students who traveled to New Hampshire to camapign for Clinton the prospect of the first female president was something they needed to support, however.
Sophia McMaster, 18, pursuing an e-commerce and Spanish degree at Fordham University, will be voting for the first time in a presidential election. McMaster comes from a family of Clinton supporters.
“My Mom is a huge Democrat, a huge Hillary supporter. She supported Hillary in ‘08, loves Bill Clinton. My cousin works in the Hillary campaign in Brooklyn so we’re a very Clinton family, very democratic family,” she said.
“I think Hillary Clinton is the best candidate and I want to be part of electing the first woman president.
“I think that some people think that to have equality means that we should be blind to any gender or sex, but in order to achieve equality we need to do something and I don't think that we can be ever fully equal until we have a woman running the country at some point.”
Her fellow e-commerce major at Fordham, Adam Hamilton, does not share the same kind of family support for the Clintons, with some backing Sanders or even one of the Republican candidates, but he is backing Clinton regardless of family history because he believes in what she has to offer.
“I think Hillary is the best candidate because she was our senator in New York and she did really a terrific job,” he said.
“I think that her experience leading the country as senator and Secretary of State makes her stand out and makes her the most qualified person really in modern American history running for the job. So I’m excited.”
Keavin Duffy agreed, although he acknowledged that he respected the current New Hampshire frontrunner.
“I understand that Bernie Sanders is a great guy and he's a wonderful senator,” he said, “but for the choice of who's going to lead the country I don't think there's a better choice than Hillary Clinton.”
Sanders' lead in the state would come as no surprise to anybody walking the streets of Manchester. Although the city can not speak for the whole state, from a short time spent going door-to-door with canvassers, if signs were displayed for a Democratic candidate, it was more often than not for Sanders. Voters I met on the street also spoke in favor of the Vermont senator, who benefits from being a close neighbor of New Hampshire.
Likewise in the Republican race. Trump’s lead in the polls – he is at 33% of Republican primary voters – was evident.
“We didn’t see any Hillary signs, we don’t think, on the streets where we were at. Probably the most Bernie signs out of anything,” said Sophia.
“A few Trump signs. I mean I would have liked to see more Hillary signs, but I wasn’t necessarily surprised. There wasn’t many signs regardless of affiliation.”
Later that night in Portsmouth Clinton attended a rally of about 5,000 people.
Earlier Mayor Walsh has stated that Clinton’s major advantage over all her opponents was foreign policy and the voters I met in Portsmouth seemed to agree.
“Anger is not a policy,” she stated, succinctly, talking about her own achievements in helping bring Iran to the table, insisting on women’s rights at a conference in Beijing and domestically, working on children's healthcare which resulted in a law covering healthcare for all kids.” She also spoke of the scandal of saddling young Americans with massive student loans.
She seemed passionate and revved up and the crowd responded. For those who say Hillary Clinton doesn’t do excitement they needed to be in that school gymnasium that night.
Backstage, she greeted members of the Irish group and others and talked about how important it was for her to see friendly faces in a crowd. The level of vitriol she faces make friends that more important to her.
Such was the extent of the support shown in Portsmouth that the hall reached capacity and an unlucky few among the Irish American students were left to return to the bus and watch the action unfold from their Twitter timelines.
They were greeted with the opportunity to stand their ground for the woman they’d waited for in freezing temperatures, however, when approached by a man questioning why Clinton should be trusted.
It was all taken in good spirits, however, with pacts made that they would get into the next rally and lively discussion continuing about the campaign, criticism of Trump, and Sanders' “Saturday Night Live” appearance well into the long drive back to New York.