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Still Undecided in New Hampshire
New Hampshire is quick to divorce candidates—not to marry them.


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Michael Barone

We’re three weeks out from the New Hampshire primary, and voters in the Granite State don’t seem to have settled firmly on one of the Republican presidential candidates.

Or so one might conclude after interviewing voters in the Lakes region north of Concord in Laconia, which like the state as a whole voted for John McCain over Mitt Romney by a 37–32 percent margin in 2008, or nearby Meredith, where McCain did slightly better and Romney slightly worse.

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“Not interested” was the most common response, reflecting perhaps not indifference but an unwillingness to talk in the freezing air.

A few declared forthrightly for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who have been leading in polls here. One man was for Romney “’til he made that $10,000 bet.”

Former state-senate president and state-house speaker Stewart Lamprey, who has voted in every Republican presidential primary since candidates’ names began appearing on the ballot in 1952, has forthrightly endorsed Jon Huntsman and gets applause at a Huntsman event in Meredith.

But former legislator and deputy secretary of state Bob Ambrose, at the same event, has “not yet” decided, though “I kind of liked what I saw.”

That seemed to be the case with most of the 100 people who on a bright sunny afternoon came out to see Huntsman at Inter-Lakes High School.

“I think I have decided on someone and then my mind gets changed,” says one man. It seems to be a pattern. Republicans may believe in traditional marriage, but they have been pretty quick to divorce a candidate.

One thing that becomes clear after interviewing New Hampshire voters is that feelings about the choices in the primary are a lot weaker and wispier than feelings about the general election.

Partisan Democrats are ready with a refrain about how Barack Obama’s problems are all “Bush’s fault” and with predictions that he’ll solve them if — they sound a bit defensive and worried here — he gets a second term.

Partisan Republicans are quick to express disgust with Obama and his policies, some in terms not suitable for a family publication, and to say that any of the Republicans (except maybe Ron Paul) would be better.

What you don’t hear much of is the detailed debate going on in conservative websites and blogs. You know, the stuff about who is conservative and who is moderate, who is backed by the Republican establishment and who is the outsider.

Maybe that’s because every candidate has some claim to being conservative, and almost all have taken stands on some matters that can be characterized as moderate or even liberal.



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