Editor's Note: You might know Bun B as the Texas–based rapper, professor, and activist who's one half of the legendary Houston duo UGK. He's also VICE's newest political correspondent, reporting on the ground from the campaign trail of the strangest presidential election in recent memory.
The hotel lobby is abuzz Tuesday morning, with a dozen or so folks milling around, working on laptops and cell phones. It's the most people I've seen here at one time all week. Some of them are with the Jeb Bush campaign, which is based out of our hotel, and the Washington Post has set up a temporary bureau in one of the hotel conference rooms for primary night. But it turns out that most of the lobby crew is down with John Kasich, the self-proclaimed "Prince of Light and Hope." Yeah. Let that shit marinate for a minute. There's been some dope-ass names coming out of 2016—it's starting to feel like mix show power summit.
Kasich woke up in a three-way tie with Ted Cruz and Donald Trump for New Hampshire's midnight votes, which is a pretty nice turnaround from Iowa, where the Ohio governor came away with less than 2 percent. I, on the other hand, am performing my morning ritual of trying to find somewhere to smoke weed in the snow without getting caught. Smoking in the car isn't an option because basically every road and driveway is blocked by police and state troopers. Neither is my hotel room, which is five doors down from South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, and anyway, Secret Service advance teams hop out of black Escalades at any given moment around this bitch. My safe spot is a corner in the back of the hotel, behind the indoor pool area. It's out of view of the lobby, and most of the rooms. And besides, who thinks to bring swim trunks to New Hampshire in January? I smoke one, chow down on some Chinese food I'll no doubt regret later, and then get ready to load up and roll out.
I come off the elevator and walk directly into Jeb!, who's doing an interview in the lobby hallway. I'm like six inches away from him, and the first thing I notice is how tall he is. I'm pretty sure Bush is bigger than Trump, and he's in much better shape than he used to be, so I'm not sure why he lets Donald punk him so easily.
It's Primary Day, and "Fade Away" by Logic plays as we pull into our first polling center, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Concord in Ward 4. It's pretty low-key. Only one news crew is on site, and just thee campaign volunteers are outside. A Ted Cruz supporter in a black beret, who probably has at least a dozen cats at home, is marking down out-of-state license plates and reporting them, to make sure no one's voting who shouldn't be. When I tell her I'm with VICE, she responds, "Like the sin?" The Democratic campaign workers are a little deeper; one of the Sanders guys tells me—in the best New England accent I've heard all week—that he suspects it's because the Republican volunteers in the area are a little naive. But everything the dude says after that makes him seem just weird as the cat lady, so it's time to roll.
The next polling place we stop by is at the Green Street Community Center in Concord's Ward 5. At least five news crews are here, as well as quite possibly the only person in the state of New Hampshire wearing Mardi Gras beads and celebrating Fat Tuesday. It's also like six degrees colder for some reason. A volunteer with the Kasich campaign is walking around, giving Atomic Fireballs and toe warmers to people. A Fireball shot would be better in this weather, but I'll take it. Another thing I notice is that people in Ward 5 have big, beautiful dogs. I see a gorgeous Great Pyrenees, a Staffordshire bull terrier, and a Goldendoodle puppy that, at ten-months-old, is twice the size of a Shetland pony. All of the volunteers are engaging in small talk with one another, except for those with the Trump campaign. Typical.
It's slow boogie out here so we head to Ward 10, stopping on the way to talk with a Brit from Brooklyn who's selling handmade Bernie Sanders T-shirts. As of Tuesday morning, Ward 10 has the largest registered voter base of any of the city's districts, at about 3,500, according to Jae Whitelaw, who's moderating voting at the Mill Brook School polling place. Let me just say, by the way, that the Mill Brook School looks like a set of condos designed by Disney. She walks us around the gymnasium with the other observers, and gives us a very thorough, step-by-step rundown of the voting process here in New Hampshire. It takes a minute, but she's delightful, so it's all good. We observe the observers observing for a few, and then chunk them the deuce.
Time is starting to work against us, but we make a final push to the Beaver Meadow Golf Course, where there's another polling center in the club house. I assume that a golf course in New Hampshire would be beautiful, and I assumed right. Untouched rolling hills of snow for as far as the eye can see—it's postcard shit. Inside, the 19th Hole restaurant is serving Louisiana-style chicken-and-vegetable soup. Technically, it may be gumbo, but apparently they're not allowed to call it that this far away from New Orleans. At this point, I've seen what I need to see, and I don't wanna have to hear the whole voting thing again, so it's time to get out of this goddamn cold and wait for the election returns to come in.
We switch up our swag and get ready to hit a few of the functions being put on by the campaigns this evening. But as we load the ride and pull off, we immediately feel the car dragging hard. I'm sure it's a flat. I get out and there's no air in the one tire at all. That bitch is on the ground. But if a trill one like me always stays down like four flat tires then do you think one flat tire can stop me? GTFOH. There's always a back up plan. We grab a cab and make our way to Jeb Bush's party.
On the way, the driver, Andy, asks if it's going to be a party or a funeral. Good one, Andy. When we tell him about the flat tire, he suggests it was probably Trump supporters. That had been my first thought, too, and it sounds like it wouldn't have been their first rodeo. Then Andy tells a story about seeing MC Hammer and Donald Trump together once. It doesn't quite live up to the picture in my head, but it's funny enough. I'd retell it, but without his local accent, it wouldn't hold up.
We talk politics the whole way over, and like everyone else I've met in New Hampshire, Andy is super informed. That's been an amazing thing about this state—people here are excited about being part of the democratic process, and they're not afraid of voicing an opinion. Plus, almost everyone seems to have a stake in the race.
After driving in circles for a while, we finally pull up to Manchester Community College, where Jeb is having his "party," for lack of a better word. Because this ain't a party—it's a press junket in a gym with mini hot dogs and a poor excuse for a nacho station. Nobody seems particularly happy to be here. Writers are rushing to meet filing deadlines, and cameramen are jockeying for the best possible angle, but it's all work and no play here. Most of the polls have closed in New Hampshire, and any hope the Bush camp had of coming in second, or even third, are fading away fast. The only smile I see in the whole place is a forced one from a female reporter taking a selfie.
We had originally planned to go to the Trump party, but at the last minute, his campaign denied our request for credentials. VICE's politics editor, Grace, went over there to see what the problem was, only to be escorted out of the building. This dude Trump is like a bloated Linus-haired version of Kylo Ren, longing for the old days when men like Darth Vader and Mussolini ran shit. As much as I wanted to witness his fuckery firsthand, I hate letting that kind of energy into my life. Shit's been way suspect ever since last night.
Almost immediately after the polls close, the networks start projecting that Trump will win the Republican race, and that Sanders will beat Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side. Jeb is currently trailing Trump by 20-plus points, and Kasich is pulling into second place. At this point, the reporters at the Bush party run back to their laptops, and staffers start typing updates into their smartphones. CNN is reporting live here, and for the first time, there's some energy in the room, though it's short-lived. As soon as the network cuts back to Wolf Blitzer, the crowd here sits back down and everyone goes back to wishing they were somewhere else.
We've planned on closing the night at the Kasich party, at the Courtyard Marriott in Concord. I stop at the bar and grab a quick sip of Grey Goose and cranberry on the way to the conference room, and then enter to chants worthy of a homecoming pep rally. After more than an hour of this, Kasich finally enters, flanked by his wife and former New Hampshire Senator John Sununu. It's a good night for Kasich, who's spent more time in this state than any other Republican candidate this cycle. As he tells the crowd, "We may have lost the state to Trump—but we beat him in Dixville Notch!"
Kasich is clearly selling himself to Republicans as the guy who isn't Trump. His speech is all about how hard his campaign has struggled for tonight's second place win, and how many attack ads his opponents ran against him, while he refused to play their games. "Maybe, just maybe," he says, "we're turning the page on the dark part of American politics because tonight the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigning." It's the message his supporters were waiting to hear, and they erupt into applause.
When Kasich starts getting into Americans being American, talking about bringing America back to its former glory, he loses me. That, to me, still sounds like coded language. But his point about helping our neighbors and fellow man resonates, as it should. Politics sometimes forces us to forge allegiances to movements that we don't always align with fully. But humans are complex creatures—no one is straight conservative or straight liberal, and we agree on more, at a human level, than most of us like to admit. Most of the people in this room—and in rooms like this all over New Hampshire—are good people who generally care about their fellow man. It's defining who those fellow men are that seems to be the point of contention.
At the end of the day, North by Northeast may be the worst festival in history, but the experience has still been eye-opening, and I'm leaving with a deeper understanding of how the country works on a political level. I initially thought being here would make me disenfranchised from the process, but it's made me more engaged than ever. So thanks to VICE for believing in an MC from Port Arthur, Texas, enough to send him untested into the storm. I'm gonna get back to my day job now, but don't be surprised if I'm back. Soon. This has been the Trill OG signing off from the New Hampshire primaries. UGK 4 Life!
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