PELHAM, NH – In this small community of 13,000 residents, living in a swing state means a great deal to voters today – even if New Hampshire counts for only four votes in the electoral college.
But with pre-election day polling showing the race between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney close, neither voters nor either candidate, both of whom have traveled to New Hampshire the past two days, are hardly taking the Granite State for granted.
“It’s crazy. I don’t care what party affiliation you are, it’s absolutely amazing,” Marie Mayotte, a Pelham resident, said after the attention the small but potentially crucial state has been getting from both presidential candidates.
A state long accustomed to being paid attention to in early presidential primary races, New Hampshire, this year, is in play. Random interviews this morning with voters here showed a divide in this town – over everything from the economy to Middle East policies – that is home to nearly as many independent voters as there are registered Republicans and Democrats combined.
Mayotte, who owns a screen printing shop, admits to having a Romney photograph – she met the candidate during one of his stops here the past two years – on her office desk. But she voted for Obama. “I’m disappointed in what Mitt Romney stands for other than the issue of the economy,” said Mayotte, a registered Democrat, citing what she said were concerns over such positions as his stance on gay marriage rights and some women’s rights matters.
But Steve Doherty, a Republican heading into vote in the Pelham High School gymnasium on a crisp fall day with clear skies, said he had enough with Obama in the White House. A small construction company owner, Doherty said the president’s health care insurance law is going to cost his firm too much money. “And he’s not been willing to work both sides of the aisle in Congress,” he said.
As for Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, the neighboring commonwealth that is just 10 minutes down the road from Pelham, Doherty said, “He did well there as governor in Massachusetts. He’s a good guy who definitely knows how to run a business and cut taxes.”
If tonight’s results are close, the handful of swing states like New Hampshire – where some polls have shown Obama and Romney running in a statistical tie – could be key. The larger electoral college prizes may be in such swing states as Ohio, Virginia and Florida, but both candidates have zeroed in on trying to win New Hampshire. Obama was here not far from Pelham on Sunday, along with former President Bill Clinton, whose primary victory here in 1992 earned him the “Comeback Kid’’ nickname. And on Monday, Romney made New Hampshire, where he launched his presidential campaign nearly two years ago, a stopping off point on his end-of-campaign in New Hampshire twice in the past several days.
“We’re glad we’re a swing state,” Doherty said.
Philip Currier, the town’s election day moderator, said voting was brisk first thing this morning. The town has 8,293 registered voters – New Hampshire, though, does allow, unlike New York, election-day registration. There are 3,994 voters not enrolled in any party, 1,844 Democrats and 2,255 Republicans. The community, more than 95 percent white, has a large number of residents who commute to Boston and its suburbs for work.
New Hampshire has more Republican voters than Democrats, though non-enrolled – or independents – are the largest bloc. In 2008, Obama beat Republican John McCain by 10 points here.
“I voted for President Obama because I think he’s the right person to get the economy back on the ground. His job performance has not been perfect, but he’s had a lost of obstructionist forces,” David Simpkin, a Democrat from Pelham, said of Republicans in Congress.
The limo driver, who has seen business stumble, said he was bothered by what he called Romney’s “trickle down’’ economic theories.
“He seems he’s much more about middle class,” Derek Durand, an independent, said of Obama after he voted for the president.
But Andrew Dow, a mechanical contractor and registered Republican, said four years were enough for Obama. “He’s a Democrat, and he’s not produced. He’s very good a marketing,” he said of Obama after voting for Romney. Dow said he hopes Romney wins and repeals Obamacare and puts a strong emphasis on reducing the federal government’s deficit and improving the economy. “There’s a lot of people hurting,” Dow said.
As he spoke, a steady line of cars made their way into the packed high school parking lot in this town about an hour north of Boston. There have already been reports of long lines of people waiting to vote in New Hampshire cities like Manchester. Mary Ann Rogers, a Manchester resident who voted for Obama, summed up the interest among voters in New Hampshire: “People here know we are a swing state.”