MANCHESTER, NH — Chip Burgess is a quintessential political tourist.
He’s from Lancaster, PA, and he’s not a Democrat yet he has spent the past week wading in the deep end of that party’s contested New Hampshire Primary, embedded in Manchester where presidential politics is the main attraction every four years.
He voted for Trump last time around and will vote for him again. But he admits Trump’s “a jerk.”
“As a person he’s horrible. I could never be bosom buddies with a guy like that. I thought I’d met people in my life who were pretty narcissistic, but he takes the cake,” Burgess says.
Yet, after sizing up the competition he says he hasn’t seen another candidate who he likes better, politically.
“If the Democrats nominate Bernie, it’s all over; they’ll lose,” says Burgess. “So I’m rooting for him to get the nomination. I think the Democrats need to come to their senses. Otherwise, it’s going to be a contested convention and then the superdelegates will come into play and, if they deny Bernie, they could have another 1968 on their hands. The left side of the party is so jacked-up they might go crazy — or they might just stay home on election night.”
He figures Joe Biden is all washed up — unless he can crush it in South Carolina and Nevada. He also thinks Pete Buttigieg is a “smart young guy,” and Amy Klobuchar will finish strong. But he’s calling it for Sanders, with Buttigieg a close second, followed by Klobuchar who he thinks might just beat Warren in New Hampshire.
Burgess, at 74, is having the time of his life. He made his reservation for primary week at the Best Western hotel a year ago.
“That’s where Trump has his victory rally last time,” says Burgess.
He had no interest in standing in a long line Monday just to see Trump at his primary-eve “Keep America Great” rally at the SNHU Arena. Instead, he’ll take in a “Bernie vs. Trump” comedy debate at the Shaskeen Pub.
Being a political tourist means you have to pick your battles, and sometimes it’s more fun to settle in with a beer and watch two comedians yuck it up in the name of satire than it is to stand in a long line on a raw February afternoon to attend a presidential pep rally.
Burgess was born and raised in Frederick, Maryland, about 40 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.
“I grew up reading the Washington Post, been reading it since I was 15,” he says. And although he lives in Pennsylvania, he keeps a condo in Frederick.
“That way I can take the train to D.C. anytime I want and go hear the oral arguments in the Supreme Court.” He is flipping through the 9,697 photos stored in his phone to find the ones from last year’s hearing for Trump attorney Michael Cohen. “I was first in line for that one.”
His trip to New Hampshire for the 2016 primary was a first.
“It’s something I always thought I’d like to do. I asked my wife if she wanted to come, but she’s not that much of a political person,” Burgess says. This time around, it’s like old home week. Burgess planted himself on a stool at the Red Arrow two days in a row because he knew that’s where the candidates come for photo ops with a side-order of glad-handing.
“I tipped the waitress pretty good because I’ve been sitting here since 8:30 this morning,” says Burgess, as the lunch crowd started rolling in.
He flips back in his phone-photo archives to 2016, when he says the venues were smaller and selfies with candidates were a given.
“That’s me with Trump at the American Legion,” he says. “And there’s Ted Cruz right here at the Red Arrow,” flipping through a few more frames. “That’s one thing I noticed, it’s harder to get selfies this time because the venues are bigger.”
His favorite president was Ronald Reagan “because he fired all the air-traffic controllers,” and describes his own political bent as socially liberal in a tent big enough for those who are pro-choice and who support gay rights.
“If you can abort a child at eight-months along and you can handle that decision, be my guest. And if you fall in love with a telephone pole and want to marry it, that’s fine by me,” says Burgess. “I have two gay nieces. None of that bothers me. What I don’t want is the government wasting my money.”
He’s also bothered by the political rhetoric on both sides. He’s stopped watching FOX News and can’t stomach MSNBC.
“I wasn’t a huge fan of Obama but he said something that I could relate to when he said that the problem in politics now is no one listens to the other side, so you never know what the other side really thinks,” Burgess said.
Which is probably why he’s having the time of his life wallowing in the Democratic-heavy NH Primary.
“No question that politically, we need more middle ground, but I don’t know where we’re going to get it,” Burgess says.