MANCHESTER, N.H. (Jan. 8, 2012) — Ron Paul and his family had to skip breakfast. They missed out on MoeJoe’s home fries–the kind with dark crunchy bits patrons savor with ketchup.
The reason: an overwhelming sea of media that caused Paul to skip out without even a cup of joe. And that also left the customers and managers annoyed that they didn’t get a chance to do their New Hampshire duty of grilling the candidates.
MoeJoe’s manager, Jenn Sanborne, 35, expressed regret about restricting media access during Paul’s visit. She only got word he was coming when the campaign called the night before. “There was so much press that he couldn’t stop, talk and eat breakfast,” Sanborne said.
“We feel bad because he came in with his family–wife and kids–and we wanted the chance to serve him in a blocked off area,” she said. “And the patrons wanted a chance to talk to him,” Sanborne added.
As Paul walked in to the room, TV cameramen climbed on chairs to get an unencumbered shot of Paul shaking hands with 100 high school students from Massachusetts and several New Hampshire voters. Long-handled microphones bumped the low ceiling and gold chandeliers swung over the mob surrounding Paul.
High schoolers extended their arms, fists full of metallic, zebra-striped Nokias and Blackberries. Some stood on the pink banquet-hall chairs in which they’d been instructed to stay seated.
The students were there courtesy of Mike Walsh, an advanced placement government teacher from Franklin, Mass. He “got the bug” for New Hampshire’s vibrant retail politics, he said, when he chaperoned a field trip to 2008 primary events. Students at Franklin High School voted on candidates and Paul emerged as the clear favorite, Walsh said. “His message on foreign policy appeals to them,” he said, explaining they tended to identify with his libertarian ideals.
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Taylor was so eager to see Paul that she didn’t let missing the 6 a.m. bus stop her. She got a ride with her dad. A home-grown political junkie whose parents listen to and read the news religiously, Taylor is not yet old enough to vote.
“I am just so into politics,” she said.
The morning’s curmudgeon was im Lahey, 24, visting his homestate of New Hampshire from his temporary job in Albany, N.Y. “Look,” said Lahey, pointing to bodies cramming into the family restaurant. “I’m from this area. People don’t come to MoeJoe’s like this.”
The “carpetbaggers” who show up only in primary season bother him, Laheysaid, because they took his chances of talking policy with the Libertarian-leaning Republican from slim to none. A house painter, Lahey is a registered Independent who hoped to ask Paul about his stance on trade agreements. But with all the media, he was blocked from even much of a view of Paul.
“Disenfranchising,” he called it.
Patron Dennis Filger was among the few who actually shook Paul’s hand and chatted brieflly with his wife, Carol Paul. He was sorry, he said, he didn’t get a chance to ask more questions.
Is he happy with any of the candidates?
“I would like to slice each candidate up,” Filger said, “and put the best one together.”
(Elizabeth Carey, a graduate student in the magazine, newspaper and online journalism at Syracuse University, is reporting for the Utica Observer-Dispatch.)