N. Hampshire expected to back Obama, McCain

Poll shows 28 percent of Democratic voters could change their minds on which candidate to choose, and another 9% are undecided.

barack obama 298 88 (photo credit: obama.senate.gov)
barack obama 298 88
(photo credit: obama.senate.gov)
Less than 24 hours before Tuesday's New Hampshire presidential primary, two mothers attending a speech here by Sen. Hillary Clinton said they were still trying to determine which candidate would get their vote. A Clinton supporter tried to warm up the crowd with practice cheers, but Denise Sussaman said she was still undecided. She and her friend Kimberly Clark were having a hard time deciding between the two Democratic front-runners, Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama. According to a CBS poll, taken Monday, 28 percent of Democratic voters could change their minds as which candidate they vote for, and another 9% are undecided. So Clinton could still swing out from her second place standing in the polls in the last hours of the race to best the leading Democratic candidate in the field, Obama. The first primary for both the Democratic and Republican races, to be held in this tiny New England state, has traditionally been used to predict the overall abilities of the candidates to win the presidential nominations of their parties, although some recent candidates such as former president Bill Clinton and George Bush failed to win the primaries here. Campaign signs can be seen on most street corners. Obama comes to the state's winding country roads and snow-covered fields fresh from his victory in the Iowa Caucus, where he was trailed by runner-up former Sen. John Edwards, and Clinton, who came in third. But polls from USA Today show that Obama has 41% of the vote, with Clinton at 28%, Edwards at 19% and Richardson at 6%. On the Republican side, while Sen. John McCain trailed third in Iowa, polls show him holding a 34% stake over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, with 30%, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee at 13%. McCain has long been popular in New Hampshire, where he won the primary in 2000, though he ultimately lost the nomination to George W. Bush. But on Monday afternoon, standing among several hundred voters in the community gym, Clark and Sussaman, who both plan to vote in the Democratic primary, had still not decided who would get their support. The two were thinking of long-term strategy as they weighed whether to vote for Clinton or Obama. Both said they were unsure whether to go with Clinton, an experienced candidate who has already survived battles with Republicans, or with Obama, an outsider who is bringing new energy and insight to the race. "I'm looking to see who can take down the Republicans," said Clark. "The issues are important, but they (the two candidates) are so close on so many of them," she added. But many others in the standing in the gym's wooden-floored basketball court had already made up their minds. Clinton's supporters waved placards to the rhythm of her theme song, "I'm a Believer." Holding a green placard that said, "Clinton Country," New Hampshire senior Richard LaPlume, 65, said: "I think she is going to make it." Sitting to his right, Junita Goodwin, also about to turn 65, added, "She has more experience than any of the others." They and Jonathan Horne, attending the rally with his three-year-old daughter, said the issues were what mattered to them, especially health care. "She stands for the middle class," Horne said. At long last, Clinton began her speech, telling the audience, "I am running for president because I believe I can make us proud of our country again and restore our leadership in the world. We are so much better then what we have been through in the last seven years." She then fielded questions from the audience, who raised their hands to ask her about global warming, foreign policy and illegal immigration. But not everyone in the gym was satisfied by her answers, including her pledges to take American troops out of Iraq and to find a way to legalize those immigrants who have already arrived here. One woman walked out shaking her head. "I wouldn't vote for her," she said. Over in Manchester, New Hampshire congressman Paul Hodes, had no doubts about whom he supports. Hodes smiled as he talked of the candidate he has "prophetically" supported since July. "Obama brings a special quality to this race," said Hodes. He called him an inspirational leader who was pulling new people into the political process and uniting people around contentious issues. It is the candidate himself, his consistency, integrity and authenticity that had resonated with the voters, said Hodes, as well as the excitement of a fresh voice and face on the political scene. As he spoke, one woman came up to him to shake his hand. "I bet you are a happy," she said. "I am feeling very confident," he responded. She whispered in his ear that she was changing her vote from Clinton to Obama. "It's time for a change," he said in agreement.