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Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NH voters focus on stances, personalities

January 9, 2008

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— The first time Niel Cannon voted for a president, he proudly cast his ballot for John F. Kennedy. "I haven't had a candidate I wanted to vote for since," the now-retired economic developer said Tuesday. "Until now."

Cannon ended a nearly 50-year streak of choosing between what he called "the lesser of two evils" with a primary vote in Concord for Sen. Barack Obama. His wife, a Republican, changed her registration to independent to back Obama, too. And their son, in his first presidential primary, also chose the Illinois Democrat.

"We need change, and we need this kind of change," Niel Cannon said. "This country has taken second-class leadership for so long."

New Hampshire's notoriously party-hopping, late-deciding voters flocked to the polls Tuesday. Interviews suggested anecdotally that some voters - such as those who picked Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York - were motivated by candidates' stances on key issues. Obama voters appeared driven more by a general feeling of inspiration.

"He's giving the country hope," said Sue Martin of Hooksett, who voted in the morning and waved an Obama sign outside a polling place during the afternoon. "He seems to like people, draw people toward him."

Matt Golde, a University of New Hampshire student, watched televised Republican and Democratic debates back-to-back with a group of undecided friends last weekend. He narrowed his choices to McCain and Obama, then chose Obama.

"He seemed pretty sincere with what he was saying," Golde said. "He didn't spend a lot of time trashing other candidates."

Among Republicans, immigration seemed to drive many late-deciders. After "teeter-tottering" all week, Jennifer Beauchesne and her husband, Jason, both voted for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, drawn by his tough immigration stance.

"Amnesty for illegal immigrants is the wrong signal to send to the rest of the world," Jason Beauchesne said.

Concern that undocumented immigrants are taking resources such as college aid away from citizens drove longtime Democrat Michelle Proulx to vote for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

She also considered Romney but said his Mormon religion stopped her.

Religion led Cynthia Liska, an office manager, to vote for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister. "He's a Christian, mainly," Liska said, explaining her vote.

Jan Ladieu also picked Huckabee but said religion didn't factor at all: "He's a likable person, he's down to earth," she said. "He's not totally a politician."

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