CONCORD, New Hampshire — Imagine you threw a party, and Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Britney Spears, the cast of "Entourage," Lindsay Lohan, Kanye West and Diddy all showed up, danced for a bit, drank all your champagne — or Pellegrino — called you their friend, said this was the best party they'd ever been to and promised to text you later. Then they made a beeline to the door, because they had another party to get to, one that was exactly the same as yours, where they'll say and do the exact same thing.
Would you be honored that they showed up to your soiree, or would you feel a bit used by the whole thing?
That's the question facing voters here in New Hampshire, the hosts of the biggest party going: the state primary. Everyone who's anyone — and a few people who aren't — is here, and they're all looking to make you feel special, all clamoring for an invite to your party. And as is the case with all superstars, they've brought their entourages: fervent college kids waiving banners, stone-faced security guards, hyperventilating press agents and faceless, buzzing photographers.
It's an incredibly head-whirling event, this primary, which fills the picturesque, snow-lined streets of downtown Concord with crowds of demonstrators, harried media types and state troopers. Every inch of property is lined with signs for each candidate; the air is full of car horns and shouting. There are guys dressed as Santa protesting global warming, guitar-clutching hippies shouting for Dennis Kucinich and kids in suits stumping for Mitt Romney. And this same thing is going on in many cities throughout the entire state at every hour, because we're less than 24 hours away from the opening of the polls, and it is most certainly crunch time.
Which is why, in the space of one city block, Republican Mike Huckabee is stopping in at a local bar to shake hands and sample a burger named after him (the Huckaburger is beef and spinach on a whole-wheat bun, garnished with a fried pickle — Huck declared it "an international taste sensation"), while John McCain is speaking on the steps of the Capitol building, backed by bagpipers as he touts his experience in foreign policy.
And down the street, campaign headquarters buzz with volunteers working phone banks, carrying handmade signs and moving with great purpose. If it all sounds very confusing and a little crazy, well, that's sort of the way it is. No one ever said hosting a party, or a democracy, was easy.
"I'm up here because I believe in Mike Huckabee," said 21-year-old Katy Gooden, a Huckabee volunteer and college student from South Carolina. "I've been going since 8 a.m., moving media, holding doors. It's hard work, but it's worth it, because I want him to win."
"I'm not really sure who I'm going to vote for, so I'm just trying to listen to everyone," Patrick Dillon, an 18-year-old New Hampshire native, said before McCain spoke at the Capitol. "My mom is very liberal, my dad is conservative, and I could really go either way. I'm not going to make up my mind until I'm on my way to vote tomorrow."
And while there's plenty of serious-minded young voters and volunteers here, there are also those who really do view the whole primary process as a party — which means they're going to have a good time.
Like 25-year-old Cameron Audet, who showed up at the Huckaburger event hoping to meet, and be booted in the face by, Huckabee supporter Chuck Norris.
"I just came here to drink a beer and catch a roundhouse kick from Chuck," he laughed, bottle of Sam Adams in his hand. "Really, I've been getting calls from people asking for my vote, and I figured I couldn't vote for someone unless I got to sit down with them, so I came out for that too. But I also want people to go, 'Wow, how'd you get that black eye?' And I'd go, 'Oh, I got it from a Chuck Norris roundhouse.' "
And if Chuck Norris is at your party, you know it's a good time. Because Chuck Norris counted to infinity. Twice.
Keep checking in with MTV News for more coverage of the New Hampshire primary throughout the week, and don't miss our exclusive interview with former President Bill Clinton.