Some kids want to be astronauts, firefighters or professional athletes, but after meeting 16 presidential candidates over the past few months, Quinn Mitchell says he wants to be a political reporter one day.
He’s also a soccer fan — supporting Chelsea in the English Premier League and Real Madrid in Spain’s La Liga — and collects antiques, particularly signed books.
Quinn is home-schooled, and pursues his childhood interests with a passion and rigor beyond his age.
The Walpole 11-year-old has already seen some of 2020’s presidential hopefuls multiple times, and can describe how their stump speeches have evolved, which jokes they repeat, and how heavily they lean into personal anecdotes about voters they meet on the trail — including him.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., attended his church’s Easter Sunday service in Walpole before making her first New Hampshire campaign stop in Peterborough the next day, and with Quinn’s reputation preceding him, he earned some face time with the candidate.
“So the minister knows I’m trying to meet all of the presidential candidates,” Quinn said over a burrito with chips and salsa at Taqueria Odelay in Keene early last Saturday evening. He describes how the minister pulled him aside in the middle of the sermon, “and I was like, oh no, what’s going on? And he takes me, and he leads me to Amy Klobuchar, and I was like, oh my God.”
He would later march with Klobuchar supporters in Amherst’s July 4 parade.
Quinn has a collection of candidate biographies — as of last week, he was halfway through “The Senator Next Door: A Memoir from the Heartland,” Klobuchar’s 355-page book — and keeps up with scoops on candidate visits by following longtime Granite State reporters Paul Steinhauser and John DiStaso on Twitter.
And when the preteen hears about a new presidential contender making a trip to New Hampshire, he asks his dad, Louis, whether he can drive him to the event.
“I told him, if it’s within an hour, I’ll take him,” Louis said. “... I’m just the driver.”
Louis added that he tries his best to let Quinn’s political interests roam freely, and for his son to form his own views.
Quinn often asks questions at the events, usually about climate change, but at some, he says he’s asked the candidates about their views on Russian interference in American elections and on where they stand on potentially impeaching President Donald Trump.
When asked who his favorite candidate is in the race so far, the aspiring reporter demurred.
However, he did share opinions about the ground game of certain campaigns.
“[Elizabeth] Warren has the best organized events I’ve seen,” Quinn said.
He has one qualm with Warren, however.
“I’m not crazy about her questions system,” Quinn quipped, deadpan before breaking out into laughter.
“He always gets called on because he’s a kid, right?” Louis explained. “But with her, it’s based on a lottery.”
“It’s very low,” Quinn said of his chances of getting called on at Warren events compared to the others.
He added that he wasn’t pleased with Beto O’Rourke running 90 minutes late to Keene State in March on a school night.
In the car ride over to 2020 events, the father and son often listen to podcasts focusing on political news and analysis. The FiveThirtyEight politics podcast is a favorite, Quinn said.
In 2019 alone, the 11-year-old has seen the following presidential candidates in the flesh:
Former vice president Joe Biden; U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris; South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Seth Moulton and Eric Swalwell (who has since dropped out); former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; former U.S. Representatives John Delaney and Beto O’Rourke; former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is challenging Trump for the Republican nomination.
An encounter with state Sen. Jay V. Kahn, D-Keene, is what Quinn says sparked his interest in politics last fall.
Just being able to meet lawmakers up close and ask them questions is an exhilarating privilege, Quinn says.
“I mean, in New Hampshire, you’re very lucky because you have an event in your area — well, if you’re in Manchester, you have an event like every day — but in Cheshire County, you have at least two or three events a month,” he said.
“You’ve probably met the future president multiple times already,” his dad chimed in.
When the independent senator from Vermont does come to the region, Quinn says he has a copy of Sanders’ book for the 2016 Democratic primary runner-up to sign.
As for whether Quinn himself has a future in politics, he says he would prefer to be in the press pool with a front seat to history rather than in the arena.
“I don’t know if I want to be a politician, just a lot of campaigning,” he said as his half-eaten burrito began to lose its shape. “I mean, I guess if I was based out of New Hampshire [as a reporter], that would be cool.”