"Keep going": Rand Paul goes phone banking in New Hampshire

Story highlights

  • Rand Paul was in New Hampshire for the fourth time since early last year.
  • The state is a must-stop for presidential hopefuls.
  • This time he was campaigning for other candidates in the state before the midterms.
  • His day got off to a slow start with a phone-banking experience.
For his first event in New Hampshire on Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul agreed to do some phone-banking at U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown's headquarters in Manchester.
The Kentucky Republican sat down at a long table, where he was flanked by the state's GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn and Brown's wife, Gail, who were also making calls. Brown, who Paul endorsed at a separate event last month, was out of town.
Nine journalists — roughly half with cameras — gathered quietly in front of Paul to observe.
No one answered Paul's first phone call, and an aide from the headquarters stepped in to dial out to the next person. The same thing happened after the second. After the third, the aide had briefly looked away and didn't immediately jump in to redial.
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"Alright, let's keep going," Paul said, looking around and sounding agitated. "Who's helping me?"
The aide quickly returned to the phone and pressed the right buttons. Paul seemed puzzled that the system didn't do that on its own, and it was becoming clear that those few seconds of entering new numbers were becoming a waste of time.
The doctor in him had a solution. "I just thought of a software update for you," he said, suggesting they use a program that automatically calls the next name on a list after an unsuccessful attempt. He repeated his prescription to Horn.
The phone-banking marked an example of Paul's no-frills, straight-to-the-chase personality. He's not one to make jokes or put on a smile in awkward moments just to fill space. In a stark contrast to the effusive styles of many politicians, he's indeed eager to "keep going" and unafraid to show impatience at times.
That's in part because he maintains an aggressive, fast-paced schedule, crisscrossing the country to campaign for 2014 candidates and raise his national profile as he prepares a potential presidential bid.
His visit Thursday — a campaign-style, four-city blitz across the state -- was his fourth time to New Hampshire since early last year. With its first-in-the-nation primary status, the state is a big attraction for White House hopefuls.
Another few calls went unanswered Thursday morning, and each time the aide stepped in to help. Paul would sit back in his chair cross-legged with every call, staring down blankly at the table as the media looked on.
"We're going to have to plan ahead before we get to the next office," Horn said, with a slightly frustrated tone.
She then recommended that he just leave a message, but Paul didn't like the idea.
After the eighth attempt, he lowered the phone. "Bad number."
Horn decided to try something else. She took over his phone and called someone whose number she knew by memory and who she described as an undecided voter.
But she didn't get through. She had to dial out again. This time it didn't ring. The aide came back to help redial. No one answered.
"Ok, you're not going to talk to anyone this morning," Horn laughed nervously to Paul.
"Put me back on the random thing," he said. "I'm going to eventually get someone." He cracked a slight smile that seemed to bring some relief to the situation.
They urged him to leave a voicemail again, but he refused.
Then, suddenly: "Hey is this Carol? This is Rand Paul, how are you doing?" Having reached someone on his twelfth call, he made his pitch for Brown.
A former U.S. senator from Massachusetts who was defeated by Elizabeth Warren in 2012, Brown is running for the Senate again, this time from neighboring New Hampshire where he had a vacation home. He officially moved to the state less then a year ago.
"I don't know exactly what made his decision as far as relocating here," Paul said, answering an apparent question from the voter about Scott's transition.
The attack on Brown as a carpetbagger is a strategy used by Brown's opponent, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, in what's become an expensive and competitive race.
"I know he's had a lot of roots here," Paul continued, before spelling out Brown's connections to the state. Paul went on to describe Brown as an "honest" man and talked up the former senator's economic positions.
He hung up after they spoke for several minutes, only to find that he had to punch yet more buttons, telling the system whether the voter was still undecided or not.
"Alright, I finally got through to somebody," he said, appearing satisfied.
"Did you convince them?" asked Gail, Brown's wife.
"Well," he said, lingering with reluctance, "They're still undecided."
At the end of the 13-minute ordeal, he stood up and issued his recommendation to the aide for a fourth time: "If you can figure out how that can go automatically...it could have gone a little faster," Paul said.
"But also maybe your younger people who can see the phone are better at it than me," he joked, drawing a laugh out of the aide while Paul grabbed his upper arm — politician style — to say goodbye.
Paul, Horn and Brown drove about 20 minutes to the next stop in Concord, where they would phone-bank once again.
This time, someone was on the other line for Paul's first call.