December 14, 2015
December 14, 2015
New Hampshire Institute of Politics
Months of behind-the-scenes work go into New Hampshire's debates
In the few hours leading up to a presidential debate, candidate green rooms outside the main stage go quiet.
"It's usually pretty calm, but you can feel the tension," said New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque. "It's like the groom before the wedding. Not a lot of talk, he looks a little odd, but you know something big is about to happen."
Wedding day for the Democratic candidates is just four days away, and local host Saint Anselm College is preparing for the big debate.
Home of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Saint Anselm is always a flurry of activity during the New Hampshire primary, with candidates and national news outlets stopping by its studios on a regular basis.
"We have more presidential campaign activity going on in this building than any other building in the United States," Levesque said.
So much face time with campaigns and major networks is a big reason Levesque has managed to score not one but two debates at Saint Anselm.
Selection is a competitive process, but years of experience has taught Levesque a few things: be persistent and accommodating. Above all, be ready for anything the campaigns and national networks may throw your way.
"If they call you on Fathers Day and they want to do something, you do it right then," Levesque said. "They know they can call me at 6 o'clock in the morning, and those relationships are rock solid."
Setting up major primary events can include tasks like getting 200 college students to turn up for an early-morning televised town hall at 3 a.m., planning around the state's unpredictable weather and orchestrating parking for massive crowds.
Through it all, Levesque said he considers the candidates and major networks important customers that need to be catered to.
"People don't think politics is a business, and they're very wrong," he said, pointing to the historically high ratings some of the 2016 debates have drawn.
That "shows people politics is alive and well," Levesque said. "Being part of it is exciting."