BOW, N.H. – The young people who filled several rows of Marco Rubio’s town hall here early Wednesday came a long way to see him: from St. Petersburg, Florida.
They were 23 political science students -- read: political junkies -- from the University of South Florida, in New Hampshire for the last 10 days before Tuesday’s primary as part of a class called “The Road to the White House.” As part of the course, the students -– half Republicans, half Democrats -– volunteer with a presidential campaign of their choice and attend candidate events across the state.
“There’s just nothing like the New Hampshire primary –- it’s electrifying,” said their professor, Judithanne Scourfield McLauchlan. “It’s retail politics. Florida campaigns, when you’re running statewide, it’s the media, it’s television. We will never have this opportunity in Florida.”
Six of her students are volunteering for Rubio, who started the day taking voter questions in a youth sports complex. Two are volunteering for Jeb Bush, two for Ted Cruz and one for Donald Trump. Among the Democrats, seven are helping Bernie Sanders and five Hillary Clinton.
One student had signed up to work with Martin O’Malley, who dropped out after the Iowa caucuses Monday. So David Thompson, 18, switched campaigns –- to Rubio’s.
He’s still a Democrat. But he played Rubio in a mock debate in class.
“I decided that if a Republican is going to be in the White House, it should be Marco Rubio,” said Thompson, a political science and environmental policy major from Silver Springs, Maryland. “I just really liked his overall message. There are many Republicans who have a negative message.”
Also volunteering for Rubio is 19-year-old Chris Happel, a political science major from Port Charlotte and a “hardcore Republican.”
“It’s been Marco Rubio since 2010,” he said of his candidate. “I knew he was going to run for president.”
The experience at Rubio’s Manchester campaign office has been less than glamorous: He and his classmates have been making phone calls and on Wednesday assembled 600 yard signs.
But Thompson, who got to ask Rubio a question at the town hall and later posed for a photo with him, said the work has been worth it: “It’s been fun.”
Photo caption: Chris Happel, left, and classmate David Thompson at Rubio's town hall Wednesday in Bow, New Hampshire.