In the Dartmouth Room, Dan Rea, host of NightSide with Dan Rea on Boston’s WBZ-AM, takes callers and talks politics. Rea, a jovial man in a red Boston University sweatshirt who looks suspiciously like Manchester mayor Ted Gatsas, transitions into a top-of-the-hour news break by dispatching an attitudinous caller who insisted on delivering a speech in an insufficiently conversational manner. “Chris was a brand-new caller. He didn’t know how to play the game,” declares Rea, who comes over to chat as the WBZ update man gives listeners an overview of the primary returns.
“Rachel Maddow was in here the other night,” he notes. Not as a guest, though—she was there to confront Rick Santorum, who was appearing on Rea’s program. Apparently Maddow had been chasing Santorum for days, intent on ambushing the avowed social conservative with a hard-hitting question about contraception. “She finally caught him,” says Rea. (Rick Santorum is not hard to find.) Over the PA, a WBZ reporter at the Santorum primary night event says there are as many reporters there as there are voters.
Back on Elm Street, three candidates are holding their own primary night parties. Jon Huntsman, who couldn’t buy coverage two weeks ago, has a priority press list, which I’m not on. I get in anyway, though, and retreat to the bar’s basement after picking my way through the camera-thronged, press-pass-wearing horde. The room is too small to fit all the journalists who are there, which, if you think about it, is sort of a metaphor for the entire Huntsman campaign.
Newt Gingrich has the opposite problem: a room too large for the size of the unexpectedly small crowd. In the center ballroom of the Radisson, the reporters almost outnumber the Gingrich partisans as a band called Tuxedo Junction exhorts people to “get down, boogie-oogie-oogie-oogie.” Their pleas go unheeded by most everyone besides a cameraman with red tennis shoes, who is furiously tapping his feet to the rhythm. A man toting a sign equating Gingrich to a zombie plants himself in front of the camera dais, and nobody cares enough to remove him.
Buddy Roemer, who is, I think, the only CJR Twitter follower in the GOP field (vote Buddy!), holds an election returns party at JW Hill’s sports bar. Say what you will about his campaign prospects, Buddy’s party certainly has the best supporter-to-media ratio—I count no more than five journalists at the bar; the other fifteen or so people are true blue Roemer fans. Buddy, so far alone among the candidates in actually being at his own party, sits calmly eating a hamburger. “We’re hoping to beat Rick Perry,” says Roemer’s New Hampshire coordinator, Chris Buck. “Wouldn’t that be something?” By 9:30 or so, Buddy is trailing “total write-ins” by eighty-five votes. (Roemer eventually beat out the write-in field—and Michele Bachmann—though he ended up with barely half of Perry’s meager total. You’ll have to click the “show all” tab on The New York Times’s full results page to see him listed.)
Attending these parties feels like a reunion of sorts, with all the people you’ve seen spread out over the trail—Hey, it’s that CNN reporter who talks really loud! Look, it’s that woman from the sports bar in Concord! Wow, it’s that guy who’s always looking for a place to sit!—come together to celebrate the end of this nightmare assignment before moving on to the next stop on the soul-deadening campaign grind. At 10 p.m., with Romney a clear victor and most of the candidates already on their ways to South Carolina, the night comes to a premature end. The parties break up and, for a minute, Elm Street becomes a stream of reporters flowing through downtown Manchester, washing away all the pomp and excitement of the past month. Before heading home, I try to stop back in at the Girard at Large studios, but the door is locked. Apparently Rich ended early, too. I hope he got some sleep.