New Hampshire ’08: A Day In The Life Of A Barack Obama Volunteer

MTV News spent 36 hours following 18-year-old Kim Ndobe from campaign trail to concession speech.

NEW HAMPSHIRE — Of all of the stories to come out of this state during the days leading up to last Tuesday’s primary, perhaps none are as emblematic of its roller-coaster ride as that of 18-year-old Kim Ndobe, a Barack Obama campaign volunteer from Manchester. The Syracuse University freshman devoted all of her winter break to knocking on doors, making phone calls and waving signs in the freezing cold for the Illinois senator’s presidential campaign. MTV News spent the last 36 hours before the results came in with Kim as she made that last push to get voters to pick Obama.

All day Monday, Kim was riding high on news that Obama was ahead of his main rival for the Democratic primary, New York Senator Hillary Clinton. A Zogby poll had him up by a staggering 13 points.

“I think he’s going to do really good things as president,” Kim said while canvassing in one Manchester neighborhood. “Like the war [in Iraq]: I think we’d end that pretty soon, which would be great. My brother fought in Iraq, and it was a really stressful time. I don’t want to go through that anymore.”

Kim also talked about why she felt such a connection with her favorite candidate.

“My mom is from the Congo. It’s just her, and she takes care of me and my sister, and she’s just done a great job providing everything for us,” she explained. “She really admires Barack Obama’s message of hope … and that all you need is hope and a good education. We have a lot of similarities, I guess. I can really relate to him, and my mom relates to him too.”

Even though most of the homes on her route were empty, and every door handle and mailbox frame was already stuffed with campaign literature, Kim felt positive her work would help Obama pull out a win.

After finishing up her canvassing route, she headed to Obama’s Manchester headquarters for a round of phone-banking. “I’m so pumped, I can’t wait,” she said between calls to undecided voters. “Good things are going to come out of what we are doing, and I know it is going to pay off.”

At 6 a.m. on primary day, Kim was up and waving an Obama sign outside of her voting precinct at St. Pius Parish Center. There, she was joined by supporters from almost all of the other major campaigns. The Rudy Giuliani lady chatted with the John Edwards sign-holder. Everyone talked and extolled the virtues of one another’s candidates before vigorously waving their signs when another voter walked up to the door.

“I really like some of the things Hillary believes in,” the Mike Huckabee sign-waver said to the Clinton champion. “I could see myself voting for her if it wasn’t for a few issues.”

Kim, on the other hand, was ready for one of the most important moments of her week — even more crucial than the morning she got to introduce Obama at a rally. She was voting for the first time. New Hampshire has election-day registration, so she walked into the Parish Center, signed a few forms, picked up her ballot and disappeared into the voting booth. Her mother, who also volunteers for the campaign, was waiting to give her a hug when she came out.

“It was really great!” she beamed. “It’s just nice to know I have a say on who is going to be in office. I was giggling while I was in there. It’s just funny. I’m voting! I’m 18!”

Still riding high on favorable polls as the national media was all but coronating Obama, Kim spent the rest of the day canvassing door-to-door to get those final few people out to the polls. (OK, there was a nap in there as well.) Then it was off to Nashua for what everyone was expecting to be a victory rally. Only it wasn’t.

“I’m getting a little nervous,” she said about her lagging candidate — before getting cut off by boisterous applause and screams from the crowd in the gym at Nashua High School South. “Oh my God, he just gained a couple of percentage points!”

After another few hours of watching MSNBC and CNN announce slight gains for Obama, countered by slight gains for Clinton, The Associated Press finally called the night for Hillary. Kim’s champion took the stage and offered one of his rousing speeches peppered with talk of hope and change. It was the same type of speech that brought hundreds of people to campaign events across the state over the previous few days. But while the senator’s words managed to wipe out much of his supporters’ disappointment, Kim was still feeling pretty, well, lousy.

“I’m really bummed. It really stinks he didn’t get the win, but what can you do?” she said. “It was definitely a roller-coaster ride. The polls definitely fool you and make you think your candidate is winning. I thought he had it in the bag. It just goes to show you, you can’t trust the polls.”

The mood was entirely different over at the Clinton rally in Manchester, where no one seemed to notice just how close the race was: Both candidates actually left New Hampshire with nine delegates for the nominating convention.