CHICHESTER — It’s hard to put your finger on why, exactly, Ann McLane Kuster‘s campaign seems so different.
Maybe it’s the enthusiastic young interns who have come from all over the country to support her. Maybe it’s the impressive efficiency and organization of her campaign, or the crowds that flock to her house parties. Or maybe it’s the candidate herself, incredibly warm and down to earth.
But it seemed perfectly summed up by the supporter who told me, “you just know when you see the real deal.” For a lot of voters, Kuster seems to be the “real deal.”
She raised more money than any other candidate running for Congress in New Hampshire history, but Kuster is more than just a money machine. The woman is friendly and outgoing, honest with voters when she doesn’t know something, and refreshingly confident in herself and her opinions.
In Wednesday’s house party in Chichester (a town that voted for Bush in ’00 and ’04, McCain in ’08), Kuster’s campaigning strength was on full display.
A hallmark of her grassroots campaign, the house party allows her to talk to voters throughout the state in a comfortable environment that isn’t reliant on political connections.
Sally Kelly, a Democratic representative in the New Hampshire House and a friend of Kuster’s, hosted more than 30 of her friends and neighbors in her house Wednesday night. Not all were Democrats, and certainly not all knew of Kuster.
The attendants, mostly middle-aged men and women, packed Kelly’s living room to drink lemonade and pick up bumper stickers scattered around the room. They listened to the candidate give her basic speech, and then asked questions.
“How do you feel about subsidies for nuclear energy plants?”
“How will you ensure that my family gets health care coverage?”
“What will you do to help young people right out of college find jobs?”
The questions were varied, and Kuster did her best to answer them, politely disagreeing with some people and listening attentively to all their concerns. (It could not have been a more marked difference from another candidate’s now-infamous interaction with voters.) The applause was boisterous at the end.
“This person is such an incredible human being,” said an enthusiastic Kelly. “All of you will feel like you’ve been best friends with Annie when you leave. She’s just that kind of a person.”
Kuster is willing to talk about her struggles and laugh at herself, which is refreshing.
“This year, I told myself I was going to raise a million dollars and lose 20 pounds,” she said. “And I don’t know which was harder. But I raised the million dollars.”
Perhaps this is the kind of honesty that has endeared herself to voters throughout the state. It might also be a level of honesty that will make her an easy target for her more polished Democratic opponent or the Republicans.
But based on the level of enthusiasm among her supporters, it might not be as much of a weakness as the others would hope.