By Katelyn Harding
DURHAM, N.H. 10/16/07 — Being a presidential candidate, particularly
one way back in the pack, seems like living each day as a cross
between salesman, minor rock star and, occasionally, the subject of
unwanted and upfront abuse. At least that’s the case if your name is
Dennis Kucinich and you choose to campaign among a bunch of drunken
alumni at the University of New Hampshire’s alumni weekend.
I joined up with the Democratic Ohio representative’s campaign this
Saturday as he made his way across southern New Hampshire, stopping at
the game, delivering a speech, and handing out little cards with a
picture of his high school football team on the front and a passage
about perseverance on the back. He always kept a smile on his face.
I started at the University of New Hampshire tailgating party. It was
homecoming weekend, and after trudging through the mud, past drunken
UNH alumni and lines of cars, I found a tent with Kucinich’s name on
it. Or I should say, a tent with a tiny Kucinich sign and about four
Hillary Clinton totem pole signs.
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There, I talked with a couple of Kucinich supporters. Josef Palermo,
23, from Florida Atlantic University started a chapter of Amnesty International at his
school, and was taking the semester off to work for the Kucinich
campaign. Palmero was working with his state senate office, drafting a
bill about Florida’s Investment Act, when the senator sent him to hear
Kucinich speak. That, he said, is where his support “really
solidified.”
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Chris Liquori, 20, has his own television show at UNH called, “Live
With Liquori Show,” and brought Kucinich
onto it two weeks ago
. Liquori said he likes Kucinich in part
because the congressman is the only candidate who talks about
impeaching President Bush. Liquori, who is originally from
Massachusetts, says he especially likes the atmosphere of New
Hampshire politics because campaigning is so personal.
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He’s right about that. When Kucinich arrived, I decided to follow him
and the interns through the drunken revelers toward the gates.
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“Kucinich? What the ****?!” said one fan.
“What is HE doing here?”
“He has NO chance of winning.”
When we got to the gate, some of the comments got a little kinder.
“I voted for you in 2004,” one fan said.
“Thanks so much for coming here, it’s an honor to meet you.”
“I saw you interview on public television recently, and I was
impressed with what you said.”
But then there also was, “How do you pronounce your last name? Never
heard of ya.”
“******* crazy. ******* communist.”
Not to mention some kids standing in a small cluster very close to
Kucinich, talking about how “smokin’ hot” his wife, Elizabeth, is.
But Kucinich smile never faltered. Each time he introduced himself, he
told fans to enjoy the game.
After the game, at a Manchester Global Warming Energy Solutions
conference sponsored by the organization Clean Air-Cool Planet,
Kucinich was scheduled to speak between Arizona Sen. John McCain and
former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, two Republican candidates for
president.
During his speech Kucinich joked, “I poll, therefore I am,” referring
to how he’s now
actually registering in polls
, and so can consider himself a
candidate for president.
Kucinich talked about how the fight against global warming “should be
the greatest work of our lives” and of the dire “consequences of
disconnect from nature.” When he said that global warming leads to
global warring, a reference to the Iraq War, the crowd gave him a
standing ovation. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
After the speech, I asked Kucinich what make this presidential race
different from his race in 2004. He said simply that the country has
changed and “now knows that the <a href="The
Iraq War
is a dead end. And that war is an instrument of policy.”
I ask him why he thinks other politicians back away from speaking their minds.
And he answered, “Well, if you can’t speak your own mind, whose can you speak?”
As we were pulling into his Dover office parking lot, Kucinich,
keeping in mind that I attend Emerson College, began quoting Ralph Waldo
Emerson’s Self Reliance
, saying “Trust thyself: every heart
vibrates to that iron string.” (He isn’t the only one to mistake the
college’s namesake for the famous American writer and thinker.)
If Dennis Kucinich is now registering in the polls, he’s still in the
lowest of single digits. Still, I was struck by how passionately his
supporters stand by this outspoken and quirky candidate, who certainly
isn’t shy about speaking his mind. At several points throughout the
day, Kucinich supporters told me how much they “loved” him and
believed in him. It was refreshing to me to see that kind of passion
from people my age — people who seem determined to do everything they
can to see their longshot candidate win the nomination.