POLITICS

Huntsman primary-eve rally in Exeter, N.H. Why?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,John Vaught LaBeaume

Jon Huntsman has selected the picturesque New England town of Exeter, New Hampshire for his primary-eve rally.  Why?

Like lots of once-rock-ribbed Yankee Republican small town New Hampshire - especially in the Massachusetts-influenced southern tier of the state - Exeter has swung strongly to the Democratic column.  Stroll down Water Street, the main drag, and note that the storefronts are filled with natural food eateries and higher end shops and galleries, full of shoppers from an affluent and highly educated demographic.

In 1988, this town, home to a redoubt of the WASP elite, Phillips Exeter prep school, went for a demographic favorite son in George H.W. Bush, who attended boarding schools rival Phillips Academy in Massachusetts.  Bush swamped the culturally alien Michael Dukakis - ethnically Greek from industrial Lowell, Mass. - here by 20 points.  (Libertarian standard-bearer Ron Paul took 76 votes, 1.31% after visiting the school.)



By 2008, Obama crushed that decade-long favorite of New Hampshire independents, John McCain 60-39%.  Moreover, Obama comfortably outpaced Hillary Clinton here in 2008's primary, but McCain won in both 2000 (a landslide over prep school-bred George W. Bush) and took the town again in 2008 over a strong Mitt Romney performance.

In short: this is far from a hotbed of Republican primary base electorate.  It's home to the affluent "unenrolled" independents that worry about Obama's economic activism targeted by Huntsman in hopes drawing out to the primary polling place and in November, by reassuring them on cultural issues.

 

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