Like any good party, this one is packed. You have to point your shoulder sideways to snake from the living room into the kitchen where Lori Ashooh greets an old friend.
"I haven't seen you in how many years?" she asked one guest.
Lori and her husband, Rich Ashooh, have invited friends and family to their home in Bedford, N.H., but a lot of strangers show up too. The Ashoohs are hosting a unique version of New Hampshire hospitality: the political house party, open to anyone who wants to meet the guest of honor. Today, that person is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
With the holidays officially over, its now a straight sprint to the New Hampshire Primary. Presidential candidates — and their Super PACS — have already spent millions in TV ads, but modern campaigns still value an old-fashioned New Hampshire tradition.
Christie is the latest in a string of Republican presidential candidates to make their way to the Ashoohs' home, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who "brought along John McCain, so it was a nice dynamic," Rich Ashooh said.
Rich Ashooh ran for congress a couple of years ago and is well connected in Republican circles. He's also the guy campaigns know they can call when they want to get their candidates in front of GOP voters. He says he hasn't solicited any of the parties—the requests come from the campaign.
Candidates want to be here because, well, it’s a party. People are in a good mood. The crowd includes supporters, a few reporters and lots of undecided voters like Joan O’Neil, who's hoping to learn about Christie.
"Do I like him as much in person as I do when he’s being interviewed on television?" she said.
The party's an unscripted environment where you can ask the candidate anything. Most people ask Christie for a photo.
It’s not until he takes the microphone in front of the living room fireplace that Christie makes his case.
"It’s not just a resume contest, everybody," he told the crowd. "You also have to have the ability to lead the American people."
It's a big crowd—well over 100 people. Still, Christie could reach more voters with a rally or a TV ad. So what's the payoff for a two-hour party?
"Listen, I think it’s the way you campaign in New Hampshire," he said. "You win people over person by person by person and they bring more people to the fold."
Even in the era of Donald Trump, Rich Ashooh says in this state a personal connection is powerful.
"Ultimately, New Hampshire is small enough that word of mouth—which I know sound kind of pedestrian—really matters," he said. "People want to know what their friends are thinking of doing and they talk about it. There’s never a dinner conversation that doesn’t include who you’re thinking about."
Ashooh has held house parties for nearly 30 years, welcoming everyone from Bob Dole to Mitt Romney, but he’s never hosted a winner. So is this the year?
"Has the next leader of the free world been in my kitchen?" he asked. "Hopefully, because they’ve all been great."
He’s undecided about which candidate he’ll ultimately support. But with another month to go until the New Hampshire primary, he's open to hosting more White House hopefuls, and—who knows?—maybe a winner.