Fifty Hofstra University students and six faculty members headed Saturday for a front-row seat in presidential politics as they departed for New Hampshire to witness firsthand the Republican primary.

The bus tour will follow the candidates on campaign stops throughout the Granite State, similar to trips university students took in 2003, 2004 and 2008. They left Saturday morning from the university and return late Monday, before the Tuesday vote.

"I hope that they observe what campaigning is like firsthand and get some of the excitement from that," said trip organizer David Green, a Hofstra political science professor. "It's a chance to observe people who you only see on your television. They may even shake hands with the next president of the United States, and that is a pretty rare opportunity."

Many of the students are political science majors, but the group includes those from other disciplines and from all classes, freshmen to seniors. It is an extracurricular activity, open to those who signed up for about $100.

Sophomore Patrick Tierney, 19, of Wallingford, Conn., a political science major, called the trip "a pretty unique opportunity."

"It would be interesting for me . . . to meet and talk to the candidates," he said. "It is really not an experience you get to have every day."

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The plan is to attend at least one event for each major candidate, and perhaps other candidates as well, Green said. Students also will meet in the statehouse in Concord with New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester) and attend a lecture by University of New Hampshire associate professor Andrew Smith, an expert on the state's primary.

"Mostly, the main activity is to go to campaign rallies and hear the candidates speak," Green said.

Hofstra will again host a presidential debate in October, the second of three presidential debates this year.

Tierney said he hopes to be there for that, as well.

"I am going to put my name in as soon as I can to get a ticket and hope that I do," he said.