In New Hampshire, voters show independent streak

New Hampshire is known for going its own way.

Romney speaks at 'final campaign rally' 370 (R) (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Romney speaks at 'final campaign rally' 370 (R)
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire – Voters in this independent New England state set Mitt Romney on his journey to the Republican presidential nomination by giving him the victory in their first-in-the-nation primary at the beginning of this year. They returned to the polls Tuesday to finish the electoral process they started, this time choosing between Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama.
Ron Gosselin, who has lived in New Hampshire for all of his 75 years, was one of those primary voters who got to see his choice returned to the ballot for Tuesday’s general election.
“People see New Hampshire as a leader,” he declared as he stood outside of a Manchester polling station, holding up campaign signs despite the chilly weather.
But like many in the Granite State, the retired hardware store owner is no strict party line voter. The placards he displayed were in support of a Democratic candidate for county sheriff.
New Hampshire is known for going its own way, and voters like Gosselin have made this one of the purplest of swing states. Though it only delivers four Electoral College votes, they were very much up for grabs in an election that surveys showed as exceedingly close when polls opened.
Diana DeLizia, 42, who moved to New Hampshire from New York two years ago, was excited to cast a vote Tuesday in a state where the winner was not a foregone conclusion.
The Obama supporter, who accompanied her 20-year-old daughter to the polls Tuesday, noted that New York was all but certain to back the Democratic candidate.
“In New Hampshire, we had to make sure we got out and voted,” she said. “Our votes are counting for something.”
Both presidential candidates have made trips to the state in the waning days of the campaign, offering impassioned pleas for voters’ support.
Obama recruited former Democratic president Bill Clinton to join him at a rally in the state capital on Sunday.
And Romney, whose headquarters is in neighboring Massachusetts, the state he once governed, chose to hold his “Final Victory Rally” in Manchester Monday night before adding on last-minute stops in swing states Ohio and Pennsylvania on election day.
Thousands of Romney supporters waited hours in the searing-cold November night to get into Verizon Wireless Arena Monday, where a full house euphorically greeted Romney and his wife Ann when they showed up at around 11 p.m.
Waving red, white and blue glow sticks and beating together Romney/Ryan plastic bats, those who made it into the stadium were treated to a concert by Kid Rock before hearing Romney make his closing argument.
“This is a special moment for Ann and me, because this is where our campaign began. You got this started for me!” he told the audience.
“Your votes and your work here in New Hampshire will help me become the next president of the United States.”
Obama also chose a symbolically significant location to deliver his final campaign speech – Des Moines, Iowa, the state that backed him over expected winner Hillary Clinton during their caucus and propelled him to the White House in 2008.
“I’ve come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote,” he said to applause, his voice hoarse as he chanted, “Fired up and ready to go!” with the crowd. “I came back to ask you to help us finish what we’ve started.”
Though voter dissatisfaction with both candidates has been an issue during the campaign, none of that was on display in either Iowa or Manchester.
Romney supporters who had been waiting upward of four hours occasionally broke into “Romney! Romney!” chants to keep their spirits high as they waited to go through security and enter the arena.
Marie Demers, 49, decided that the cold was too much for her for Monday night’s event, but was proud that her 28-year-old son was among the thousands of supporters willing to brave the elements to get in.
“They’re exercising their freedom,” she said. “I was so proud to see the crowds of people willing to stand out in the freezing cold [to show] their support.”
Demers was born and raised in New Hampshire and said she never missed a primary or general election.
“I love that we get to start it off,” she said. “It’s such a privilege that we have this.”
Not that her family helped determine the final verdict.
While she and her son voted for Romney, her daughter and daughter-in-law went for Obama.