Forget snowbirds! Tourists flock to New Hampshire for primary.

February 7, 2016

So-called snowbirds like to head to warm states like Florida when the cold weather sets in. But, ahead of its primary, chilly New Hampshire is drawing its own share of tourists who want to get a hand-shake or take a “selfie” with the next U.S. president.

Drive down any street in New Hampshire and there are signs of the 2016 campaign. Campaign buses are ubiquitous as are yard signs. And candidates are constantly dropping by diners and coffee shops for opportunities to meet as many voters as possible in the state.

For people from states with later primary contests, New Hampshire offers an opportunity to get one-on-one time or to see lesser-known presidential aspirants before they withdraw.

“You’re at the center of the political world,” said Mike Hoffmann, who traveled with this wife Karin from Abington, Pennsylvania, for the first-in-the-nation frenzy since 2000. The couple are no strangers to the excitement of primaries.

In 2004, the Hoffmanns, both 65, saw comedian-turned-Minnesota senator Al Franken tackle a protester at a rally for Howard Dean. The former Vermont governor lost the Democratic nomination that year to John Kerry, who eventually lost the White House and is now the U.S. secretary of state.

“We were very impressed with Dean…I think he would have been a much better candidate than Kerry,” Hoffmann said. The Hoffmanns on Saturday hung out at a restaurant in Manchester where Ohio Governor John Kasich visited.

They like Kasich. “Don’t you think he looks like Harrison Ford?” Karin Hoffmann asked, clarifying that she meant Ford circa “The Force Awakens” as opposed to his younger days in the original Star Wars.

Kasich, however, isn’t the only politician that the Hoffmanns have their sights set on.

Same with Candy Perry, 66, of Denver, North Carolina. She was at the Puritan Backroom restaurant in Manchester to see Kasich, but she said he wasn’t in her top three.

Carly Fiorina was. Perry had just seen the businesswoman speak. “I felt that she is being cheated not being on stage tonight,” Perry said, referring to Fiorina’s exclusion from the Republican debate Saturday. “I think some of them are afraid to debate her.”

Voters from neighboring states like Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine often drift into New Hampshire to check out political events. But Perry made more of a trek – she flew into Boston on Friday as snow blanketed the area, and she uses a schedule maintained by a local cable network to track the candidates.

She plans to see Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and real estate mogul Donald Trump before she leaves on Thursday.

“I’d even like to see Bernie, get a kick out of the kind of people he draws,” Perry said.

Richard and Deborah Helman of Martinsburg, West Virginia, came to New Hampshire in January even though they have to wait until May before they can cast their votes.

Every American should do this, they said.

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