MANCHESTER, N.H. (Jan. 9, 2012) — Primary fatigue is not a disease in New Hampshire.
Despite the daily campaign events, despite the wall-to-wall posters and placards, despite the hordes of journalists, New Hampshire residents still relish their role in choosing a president. They’ve come to expect all the hoopla and inconvenience every four years. Many voters enjoy the attention their state gets. They revel in learning as much as possible about the candidates before making a decision at the polls.
“Folks in New Hampshire really do take it seriously, and it’s become a really big part of the state’s identity,” said Chris Galdieri, a political scientist at Saint Anselm College in Manchester.
This year, the chaos is slightly less than in previous years, Galdieri said. This is because only the Republican Party has a seriously contested race and Mitt Romney is far ahead of the pack.
“I think there’s just less of the suspense that you tend to associate with an election campaign this year,” he said.
Barbara Bishop, 62, and Dennis Filger, 64, both of Bedford, N.H., embraced the opportunity to meet candidates. The couple met Ron Paul and his family at a diner Monday morning and went a Newt Gingrich event in the afternoon. They’ve also been to events for Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum.
“How many times do you really get a chance to spend this much time meeting and talking with candidates?” Filger said. “This is where national politics becomes local politics.”
Like many New Hampshire voters, they are waiting until the last day to decide whom to vote for.
Keith Howard, 51, is a registered Democrat from Manchester, N.H. His choice is almost boringly clear: President Barack Obama. But that’s no excuse to stay home, he said. “Because I live in New Hampshire, I’m going to go and vote,” Howard said.
The notion of a civic duty to participate in the democratic process is shared by a number of voters. Gustavo Moral, 57, volunteers for a group aimed at increasing participation among Hispanic voters.
A chance to interact with candidates gives New Hampshire voters a different perspective on them. “We’re looking for the intangibles,” he said. “We look for the moments when their guard is down.”
For Moral, like many New Hampshire voters, the state’s role is a source of pride rather than annoyance.Said Moral: “I think it’s part of what makes America.”
(Kathleen Ronayne, a senior with dual majors in newspaper journalism and political science at Syracuse University, is covering the New Hampshire primary for The News.)