The town of Bow, smack dab between New Hampshire’s capital and largest city, is home to just over 7,500 people. But Republican presidential candidate John Kasich has held three town hall meetings there.
The Ohio governor is set to hold his 100th town hall in the Granite State this evening after months spent crisscrossing the state, introducing himself to voters. He’s held more town halls than his GOP competitors, many of whom have struggled to stand out in a field dominated by candidates with names like Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.
His strategy has centered on the importance New Hampshire voters place on personal interactions with candidates. In an oft-told joke here, one man tells another he’s unsure what he thinks of a candidate since, “I’ve only met him twice.”
Linda Fowler, a professor of government at Dartmouth College, in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, said town hall events may be a "hundred-year tradition of retail politics" but their impact on voters may be diminished this year because of the large number of candidates.
“I think they've helped, but...not as much as one might have thought," she said in an interview. "There are so many candidates for voters to sort through, so face-to-face campaigning is not having as much of an effect on candidates’ standing in the polls."
Holding over 100 town halls in New Hampshire propelled Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to victory in the state’s 2000 and 2008 primaries. This year, Trump has led the state's polls for months and has relied on national media attention instead rallies and town halls to reach voters.
McCain told ABC News that it is possible Trump has “upended all the standard practices that have characterized the New Hampshire primaries.” But he cautioned about drawing conclusions too soon, as voters here often wait until the last minute to decide. Hitting the centennial mark can show a candidate’s hard work and devotion to voters, he said.
“Every experience that I’ve had...is that people want to be able to say when they go into the ballot booth that they have seen and examined these candidates up close and personal before they made up their mind," he said.
Whether Kasich’s relentless efforts on holding town halls was worth the energy will be settled on Tuesday, when voters head to the polls.
For Kasich and other candidates whose name, record and positions may not be as familiar to New Hampshire residents as say Trump's, meetings in schools, business, hotels and community centers give these candidates a chance to personally answer voters’ questions, shake their hands and literally ask for their support.
“These people are introducing themselves. It’s a dating process,” Arnie Arnesen, a liberal New Hampshire political commentator and radio host, told ABC News.
Kasich’s town halls have taken him from the south of the state to the less-populated North Country, which candidates often neglect.
The political town hall meetings parallel the communal “town meetings” that residents often hold in New Hampshire to discuss and vote on local policies.
“That’s the way things are done in this part of the country -- by doing things local,” said Tom Nowell, who lives in Newbury.
Kasich has said he will not progress in the race if he gets “smoked” in New Hampshire.
“I’m going to do the best I can,” Kasich said at a town hall meeting in Claremont, New Hampshire, on Tuesday. “No Hail Mary passes. At the end of the day I’ll have done the best I can.”