Mass. volunteers pour over border in N.H. primary push

Tom Benner

The political cavalry – with hordes of volunteers, activists, and true believers – has descended on New Hampshire, with South Shore folks prominent among those making one last pitch before Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Twenty-two-year-old Joe Sheehan, a college student from Pembroke, headed to Wolfeboro, N.H., with two friends on Thursday, expecting a long, cold weekend of knocking on doors and working the phone banks.

Sheehan and his buddies expect to sleep on couches at a stranger’s house, but it’s all for their candidate: Arizona Republican John McCain.

“Basically we scrape by for a few days,” said Sheehan, who contrasted the McCain team with the well-heeled Mitt Romney campaign. “We don’t have millions like other campaigns, so we won’t be put up at a hotel or anything.”

Romney’s loss to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses Thursday night raises the stakes for the former Massachusetts governor in Tuesday’s primary. Only three Romney volunteers were on hand in Braintree on Friday morning to board a bus headed to New Hamsphire, and Romney himself conceded that his support is down in his adopted home state.

“They vehemently disagree with the fact that I’m pro-life, they disagree with the fact that I’m opposed to same-sex marriage,” Romney was quoted as saying in Friday’s Des Moines Register.

Jass Stewart expects to meet fellow Barack Obama supporters on Saturday at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree, then carpool to New Hampshire and canvass in rural neighborhoods. The last time, he ignored a series of “no trespassing” signs in front of one home and bravely knocked on the door.

“The signs seemed to get bigger and bigger, and I walked past a few turkeys,” said Stewart, a Brockton resident who narrowly lost a race for mayor in November. “The guy answered the door and said, ‘Obviously, you can’t read.’”

John Bowes of Marshfield has regularly made day trips to New Hampshire since May. An Obama campaign volunteer and political blogger, Bowes said Granite Staters seem mostly interested in talking politics – except one man in Manchester, who answered his front door in the buff.

“The only thought I had was, don’t break eye contact,” Bowes said. “I gave my pitch and walked away.”

This weekend marks the fourth trip for Matt Sisk of Braintree to stump for Romney in New Hampshire. As Tuesday nears, he says, some New Hampshire residents can’t wait for the election to end.

“People get a lot of phone calls, and they can get sick of it,” Sisk said. “A lot of times, people are just inundated with all these phone calls. So people can get aggravated a little bit.”

Bay State political leaders are making their presence known this weekend, with Gov. Deval Patrick pitching for Obama, and House Speaker Sal DiMasi stumping for Hillary Clinton. DiMasi led a group of volunteers last weekend that knocked on 1,500 doors and won over 250 committed Clinton voters in one day, he claimed.

Plymouth County Register of Deeds John R. Buckley Jr. of Brockton supports Democrat Bill Richardson – a fellow Tufts University graduate. But at week’s end, he was unsure whether he’d drive to New Hampshire to stump for his underdog candidate.

“The way these primaries are so front-loaded, even if our candidate survives beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, the chances of getting media attention makes it very unlikely,” Buckley said.

Tom Benner may be reached at

The Patriot Ledger