It was midmorning on MLK Day and I just thought I would take a look on the NHPR.com website to see what candidates were doing for the day. I quickly noticed that Rafael “Ted” Cruz was going to be 15 miles up the road in Washington in about an hour.Washington is one of my favorite towns. I am sure it has its challenges but on the surface it looks like a great little community: old clapboard homes lining Route 31, the one general store, the gazebo on the village green, a few flags fluttering in the frosty breeze. I don’t need a reason to drive up there. Without any other plans in motion, I quickly grabbed the camera and was out the door to the quintessential New England village to see “the next president of the United States…” Ted was on a whole state tour visiting small towns and holding “town meetings” with area residents. Ted’s bus was already there, having held a town meeting in Keene earlier in the day. Loaded with my honkin’ big camera, I wander up to his bus and take my position with two other photographers. Thinking they were the only other ones there as there were no TV trucks or other evidence of media and the building at Camp Morgan was small. The host introduced me to Walter Morse “the best state cop we ever had.” Several people asked Walter if he was supporting Ted but Walter said in a halting New Hampshire accent, “haven’t made up my mind yet.” Moments later the bus door opens and trailing a few aides, out steps the candidate, Rafael Cruz. Pleasant smiles, a few hand shakes and in the building he went…followed by me. Inside what turned out to be the kitchen for the camp was about 30 reporters, videographers and camera dudes. The candidate stood in front of the Ted Cruz backdrop and started fielding questions. Thoughtfully, he passionately answered their queries. “One last question” and Ted stepped away from the reporters and stood next to me. The media crowd filed into the hall where there were about 100 people waiting to hear Rafael. I was pleased to see there was room to move around, thus knowing I would probably get some good photos. I positioned myself just outside the kitchen door to get a photo of the candidate coming into the room. There he was poised to tell these people why he should be the next most powerful leader in the world, standing in a camp kitchen in rural New Hampshire. A flood of thoughts came over me. But looking at him, and him looking at me, as I was the first person closest to the door, I was struck by how shy he looked. “Will they like me?” “Will they understand me?” “What am I doing here?” He entered the room, waving before he was introduced and then people finally seeing him acknowledged his presence with applause. Ted, smiling awkwardly, entered the room and shook hands with people along the aisle: sort of engaging them, but not really. He doesn’t seem to smile easily and often looks ill-at-ease when he does so. He finally made it to the platform and looked relieved to be there in his domain. His opening line: “I am so happy to be here in Washington…New Hampshire rather than Washington DC.” And based on a few chuckles among the gathered Ted launched into his 40 minute talk which sounds a bit like the creation of the world. “On my first day in office I will repeal everyone of President Obama’s illegal executive orders…and reverse the persecution of religious groups (and several other items) and that’s on my first day” “and in coming days, I will…rebuild the military” “and in coming days, I will…ban Common Core…” And on and on it went until the world was made whole again. Once that was accomplished he then took questions from the audience. There were the usual questions one hears…how will you protect our 2nd Amendment rights? how will you protect Christians in other countries who are being persecuted? What will you do to protect our borders?… It was about this time I decided to leave to get to the Trump event. As I was heading out through the parking lot to my car, two police officers smiled as I approached and said, “should we assume that you didn’t like what you were hearing?” “No, I’ve heard it all before.” And with that I was gone.
These guys on the lower left of this photo are the three Maine college students I saw later on at the Trump rally. The student in the pink shirt with the blue vest had a good story. He had gone to a GOP student convention where all the candidates were wooing their support. He was standing at a refreshment table when he got a pat on the back. He turned to see an older gent smiling and saying, “nice to see you here.” The older guy had a lazy eye which kind of distorted his face and distracted the student from hearing anything else he was saying…so the student looked for the quickest opportunity to leave the food table. Moments later he was informed that he had just been talking to was former Governor George Pataki of NY. Pataki is no longer seeking the nomination…could it be the lazy eye syndrome that doomed his national plans?