It’s not cold. It’s freezing, literally below zero on a Saturday morning in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Teacher Brendan Powers is ready to canvas. He has Bennet campaign literature in his pocket, a blue Bennet for America hat over his brown hair and an app on his phone to tell him where to go.
“So this would be our first home, which is looking quite quiet,” he said as we walked up the unshoveled driveway. “We'll give a ring and hope for the best.”
A brisk knock on the door along with a wait that feels like minutes rather than seconds.
Powers rolls up the campaign material and leaves it on the handle of the front door. Sometimes he leaves little handwritten notes to go with it. Something like, “Granite State voters are still undecided, please consider Michael Bennet.” A way to personalize the campaign literature that litters doors all across this state.
Not today though.
He’s got about 90 houses to hit. The campaign’s goal for the day is 1,500 houses in the Manchester area. Dozens of volunteers are fanned out here and across the state doing the same as Powers.
“It's quite the solitary affair, but it’s fun,” he insists.
Powers isn’t one of the coveted New Hampshire voters Bennet is in search of. He lives right across the border in Massachusetts. He hasn’t volunteered for candidates before, but he believes in Bennet’s message. And being out here, doing this, speaks to him.
“I teach eighth-grade civics in Massachusetts and we talk a lot about the election,” he explains. “And my kids, when I talk about it are like, ‘You knock on people's doors? What do they say? Do they tell you to go away?’ And I'm like, sometimes. So it's very interesting to have those conversations with kids and try to get them to see what the process is and trying to get out the vote.”
Powers saw 19 candidates in person this season, including Republican Bill Weld. His list quickly got whittled down to Bennet as other candidates dropped out. He said in November, he’d do what he could to get Bennet across the finish line in New Hampshire — and he has.
He has worked phone banks, put out lawn signs and knocked on doors. Almost 800 of them in New Hampshire.
He’s had good conversations, not so good conservations, and heard a lot of silence. Usually, he finds someone home about 20 percent of the time.
The signs are good at the next house. The driveway is shoveled. A dog’s barking and as he approaches, someone waves from the front window and points to a side door.
There he is greeted by Jason and his dog, Otto.
In a friendly manner, Powers talks about Bennet’s education proposals before he asks the really important question: Do you know who you’re voting for Tuesday?
Jason, who’s been listening politely, said yes, but it wasn’t Bennet. “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t think Michael Bennet is a viable candidate,” Jason said.
Powers is ready with an answer, “But you have the power to change that, though, Tuesday.”
And so the conversation goes for another minute or two. It’s not the conversation Powers had hoped for, but Jason took the time to listen. Powers explained how he came to support Bennet, and more importantly, encouraged Jason to at least try and hear Bennet in person.
“Thanks a lot for your time!” Powers said. He thought about other things he could have said like that polls don’t matter. But what’s done is done.
Onto the next house.
Powers admits his wife will be glad when the New Hampshire primary is over. He hopes Bennet will keep going until November, an idea he jokingly hopes will be only slightly irritating to his wife.
What happens after Tuesday, however, has been on his mind. New Hampshire has the ability to lift Bennet’s campaign or end it. Powers said he will support whoever the Democratic nominee is when the election rolls around.
“But Senator Bennet is the one who gets me to come out on beautiful 70-degree days and leave my wife and daughter and he’s the one that gets me to come out on this 21-degree day,” he said. “And I don’t see any other candidate at this point inspiring me to do that.”
So until the polls close Tuesday night in New Hampshire, Powers will keep doing what he can.
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