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Political tourists flock to New Hampshire

A slew of tourists have flocked to the state for a front-row seat to the country's first primary.
A child listens to Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speak to campaign workers and volunteers outside his campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H., Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty)
A child listens to Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speak to campaign workers and volunteers outside his campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H., Feb. 6, 2016.

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire -- While many fly south during the winter months for vacation, a slew of civic-minded and politically curious folk have flocked to New Hampshire for a front-row seat to presidential politics.

“It’s retail politics at its finest, you get a chance to see the candidates as they really are, no media coverage, no edited comments,” Breen Egan told MSNBC while waiting for Sen. Marco Rubio to speak at a local high school. This is his fourth time traveling from Boston to New Hampshire the week between Iowa's caucus and New Hampshire primary. “Just get a hotel for five days, get a GPS and wander around and see as many people as you can.”

Egan’s not alone: At political events across the state this week, MSNBC encountered tourists at every stop. For every New Hampshire voter shopping for a candidate to vote for, there’s usually someone standing right next to him from another state -- or sometimes even another country -- there for the show. 

“We live in New York, so the primary season, the political season is already over by the time the primary gets to New York,” David Morton, 48, told MSNBC. “We feel like it’s unfair we never get to participate, so we’re just here to watch, I brought my kids up.” 

Morton, who works in the financial industry, and his wife, a physician named Tanya, 48, brought their two kids, ages 13 and 16, up on Friday for the weekend.  They’d seen Hillary Clinton on Saturday and after Rubio, they planned to go to an event with Gov. John Kasich.

Just being here was part of the fun: David said he’d even run into Bernie Sanders at their hotel’s coffee machine.

Political tourists plan ahead: The Mortons booked their hotel room 10 months ago and even then, David said, the only rooms available were at the Hampton Inn in Concord, half an hour out of the center of activity in Manchester.

Still others head up to the Granite State to be political activists.

Dan Kipnis, 65, a fishing boat captain from Florida, came to New Hampshire to ask candidates about climate change. He'd teamed up with for his trip and was joined at the event by the group's campaign director, Brant Olson. 

“There’s nothing in my mind more important to this country and to the world than the issue of climate change,” Kipnis told MSNBC. “I can get them all in a small place -- if I try and do this in Florida, they’re flying around all over the place. Here, I can get a rental car, and I can go to two or three of these a day and get two or three candidates a day.”

New Hampshire's 9,000 square miles makes a far more manageable campaign trail than, say, Iowa's 56,000 square miles; nearly everything here in New Hampshire is within an hour of everything else, and with two major airports within an hour's drive, it's far more accessible than much of Iowa.

Kipnis said he’d been to four events so far -- seeing both Gov. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz once and Rubio twice -- and said he planned to leave Monday and would watch the election results from his home in Miami Beach. 

Still on the captain's to-do list here in snowy New Hampshire before he flies south?

“I think I’m gonna go eat a lobster dinner!” Kiptnis said.