Republican voters set up camp in New Hampshire

Romney has a big advantage in New Hampshire primary, which neighbors the former Massachusetts governor's home state.

Mitt Romney holds a child at a campaign event 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
Mitt Romney holds a child at a campaign event 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire – David Dalrymple has thick, black gloves and a wool hat. He has bottled water, yogurt and fruit. He has a lawn chair and umbrella. He even has a woven wool mat so his feet don’t have to rest on the ice-cold cement sidewalk.
After 20 years of participating in New Hampshire primaries, he knows what’s needed to stay comfortable in the New England winter while campaigning for a candidate outside a polling station.
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“I’m here for the duration, so I know what to bring,” Dalrymple said. “I’m prepared.”
Most importantly, he has a large Mitt Romney sign.
“I think it’s going to be extremely hard for anybody to catch up to Romney,” he stated with confidence.
Going into the vote Tuesday, the polls bore that out. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, earned 33 percent in a survey released Monday, and though the survey had registered a 10- point drop in recent days, that number was still 13 points above Texas Representative Ron Paul, his nearest competitor. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman followed with 13%, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum with 10% and former speaker of the US House Newt Gingrich with 10%. Texas Governor Rick Perry mustered just 1% of the vote.
In a national poll that Reuters released Tuesday, Romney also surpassed all the other GOP candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, besting the second-place Gingrich 30% to 20%. Results from Tuesday’s primary were not available by press time.
Romney also has a big advantage in New Hampshire, which neighbors Massachusetts and where he owns a vacation home. In addition, Republican voters in the Granite State tend to focus on economic concerns rather than the social issues that motivate many of his opponents’ supporters.
“I watched what Mitt did in Massachusetts, and I liked it,” Dalrymple explains. “He’s been here. He has a home here. He’s a neighbor.”
He adds that he also supports Romney because of his stance on foreign policy issues, including in the Middle East.
“I think he’ll be a good friend of Israel, not like the president we have now,” he says.
Israel is a crucial issue for Marty Weinstein, who also voted Romney. He did so reluctantly, as he wanted to vote for Santorum but decided it was more important to back someone who was better positioned to win.
“We need someone who can challenge [President Barack] Obama,” he says while standing outside a polling station in Salem. He labels the president’s policies on Israel and the broader Middle East “dangerous.”
He notes that he feels reassured by all of the Republican candidates’ stances on Israel, except for the isolationist Paul.
“Most of them were pretty good on Israel,” he says. “Ron Paul scares the hell out of me – but also out of everyone else.”
Another voter at Weinstein’s polling station says Paul’s foreign policy views have eliminated him from the list of candidates she is considering.
“Ron Paul’s got a lot of interesting things to say, but I wouldn’t go for him at all,” says Harriet Cooper. “[He says,] ‘Just put a big fence around the country,’ and you can’t do that.”
But his international positions haven’t been a turn-off to three supporters who showed up in front of the polling site to hold signs supporting his candidacy, one of several voting locations where only Paul campaigners were present.
At Dalrymple’s station, he is the only activist holding a sign for a candidate other than Paul, where five supporters have come to campaign – two from Massachusetts and three from New Jersey.
And outside a polling station in Manchester at mid-day, dozens of impassioned supporters have packed the lawn of the Webster School to cheer Paul on during a brief visit.
Waving Ron Paul signs, they chant, “President Paul!” and call the libertarian candidate the “father of the constitution.”
Not all present are swept up in the excitement, however. As a Red Sox fan might do upon hearing a cheer for the archrival Yankees, one man inserts his contrary opinion whenever the crowd calls out the candidate’s name.
“Ron Paul!” the crowd chants.
“Sucks!” he shouts back.