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Washington Invades New Hampshire For Presidential Primary

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The media descends on presidential candidate Rick Santorum outside a grocery store in Amherst, N.H.
David Schultz
  The media descends on presidential candidate Rick Santorum outside a grocery store in Amherst, N.H.  

Hundreds of Washington journalists are in New Hampshire this week in anticipation of tomorrow's big Republican primary election, and some residents of the state say the journalists are beginning to wear out their welcome.

Manchester resident Tom Donovan has experienced every primary election here since 1980, and he says it's not hard to spot the Washingtonians. "Oh you can kind of tell who's from out of town," he says. "…They wear black a lot."

Jim Walsh, another Manchester resident, says TV news vans are clogging the streets and pollsters are constantly calling him at home. 

"It is at times very bizarre. Sometimes it's almost dangerous," he says. 

The entire state of New Hampshire is a full-fledged media circus this week. Almost every person walking the streets is a potential source for journalists covering tomorrow's vote.

And New Hampshirites have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, says Walsh, it can be disruptive and intrusive. But on the other hand, residents know it's part of their responsibility as an early primary state. 

There’s a sense of duty being the first in the nation primary, that we host everybody and we show our good side here in the state of New Hampshire," Walsh says. "And it is exciting being able to cast the first votes."

Not everyone in New Hampshire feels ambivalent about the primary, though. Ralph Melchionda, the owner of a small grocery store in Amherst, thinks it's fantastic.

His opinion probably has something to do with an appearance Rick Santorum made at his store this weekend and the huge pack of journalists who all bought sandwiches there afterward. 

"It's great for business. And it isn't about the business we do today," Melchiona says. "It's a larger picture issue. And it's an exposure issue and it's all about having some fun."

For Melchionda, the sound of an unruly press scrum is really the sound of cash registers ringing.


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