Their political 'Super Bowl' is about to begin

Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 07:41:09-05

CINCINNATI -- If politics were football, Tuesday would be a huge playoff game.

The New Hampshire primary is one of the biggest nights of the year for political nerds. Not quite the Super Bowl of Election Night or the Super Tuesday primaries, which prompt University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven to drag a second television into his living room. But he still plans to stay up all night until every vote is counted.

After all, he has a fantasy team to worry about. He and fellow junkies drafted Republicans eight months ago for a presidential fantasy ticket. His pick: Marco Rubio with John Kasich as vice president.

“New Hampshire is up there in the top five political nights of the year,” Niven said. “The primary has such history to it and has changed the course of the presidency.”

UC political science professor David Niven has a fantasy presidential ticket.

While sports fans may have spent Monday nursing a hangover from Sunday’s Super Bowl, local political nerds are gearing up for their own version of the big game day. The New Hampshire primary is a night to host parties, stay up late watching results, and make bets with friends on winners and voting spreads.

Alana Tucker, operations manager at Cincinnati political consulting firm Government Strategies Group, will make elephant-shaped cookies on Tuesday night. She’ll watch CNN until concession speeches are made while following Twitter and Facebook on her phone, monitoring news on her laptop, and texting her mom, grandmother and friends.

“This is my football season. I could care less about football, especially compared to our nation’s future,” Tucker said. “New Hampshire will be huge. We saw three candidates drop as a result of Iowa; I’m anxious to see who will drop after New Hampshire.”

Government Strategies Group consultant Anne Sesler

This primary is especially exciting to Ohioans because Kasich has staked his campaign on the Granite State. Unless he finishes in the top three, he may be at risk of going home.

“Having my governor in the race is likely a once in a lifetime,” Tucker said.

She’s coming off a tough loss in the office pool for the Iowa caucus, where she bet that Donald Trump would win by seven percent. Instead, Ted Cruz came in first.

Anne Sesler, a consultant at Government Strategies, wants to bump the $1 office pool to $5 for the New Hampshire primary.

Jared Kamrass, principal at Rivertown Strategies.

She’ll watch the primary at home with her husband, Bryan McCleary and their 18-year-old political junkie son, Chris John McCleary (he was named after John Glenn because his parents met while working on his U.S. Senate campaign.)

What’s piquing her interest this year?

“For Chris, it’s Bernie. For me it’s Hillary. And we are all intrigued with how unexpected the Republican primary race has been with the impact Trump has had and how competitive it’s been,” she said.

Jared Kamrass, a principal at Rivertown Strategies, will watch the primary at home on multiple screens.

Mike Brill, president of College Democrats of Ohio

“My TV will be tuned to CNN, my iPad will be refreshing Twitter, and my phone will be used for texting -- perhaps excessively,” he said. “I will watch through all the major speeches and after the networks declare winners.”

His big questions: Will Clinton close the gap in Sanders' big lead there? Will Trump’s loss in Iowa knock him off his substantial lead? Will Rubio move ahead after an impressive Iowa showing? How will the establishment governors (Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush) place after banking their entire strategy on doing well in New Hampshire?

“In New Hampshire a lot of voters are undecided until the very last minute. A lot can happen and things can change,” said Mike Brill, a University of Dayton senior and president of College Democrats of Ohio.

Brad Johnson, president of UC College Republicans

Brill, who is a Clinton supporter, will likely invite friends over Tuesday night.

“Otherwise I’ll just group chat and talk about the results as they are announced,” Brill said.

Brad Johnson, chair of UC College Republicans, flew to New Hampshire a week ago to be part of the excitement. He’ll work the polls on Tuesday and watch results from Kasich’s campaign headquarters there.

Charles "Chip" Gerhardt III, founder and president of Government Strategies Group

“I’m a huge political nerd,” Johnson said. “We have about 60 young people out here with my group for Kasich from all over Ohio. We are all pretty excited.”

Charles “Chip” Gerhardt III has made two trips to New Hampshire to campaign for Kasich. While he wants to return for the primary, he’ll likely be watching it at home instead.

Doug Moormann, vice president, Development Strategies Group.

“Other than the general election, I think it’s one of the most important political days of the year because it’s the first primary in the country and typically launches or kills campaigns,” said Gerhardt, president and founder of Government Strategies and Development Strategies Group.

Doug Moormann also has plenty of Republican friends in New Hampshire, so he’ll get his news “in real-time from the ground,” on Tuesday. But he’ll be watching the primary from home.

“No doubt that I will be tuned-in by midday on primary day,” said Moormann, who is vice president at Development Strategies. “Like many election days, it a pseudo-holiday - something I look forward to and savor all day.”