EXETER, N.H. - Up here in New Hampshire on a polling place hopping tour, the first stop was Bow, a town north of Manchester, near Concord.
Unlike the state capital, Bow has a history of traditional Yankee Republicanism. On the list of "richest towns" in New Hampshire (see #15), its upper income electorate's Republicanism hasn't been extinguished, but the town has been a battle ground since 2000 with narrow George. W. Bush wins. In 2008, Obama won 53-46%.
To confirm this trend, the first two voters encountered were Democrats. Both cut the same wisecrack: their choices came down to either Obama or Vermin Supreme, a perennial N.H. primary also-ran who's infusing a some much needed Merry Prankster-ish levity into the Occupy the Primary scolders' crashing every campaign stop. One older man came out to register support for the president amid the spotlight on the Republican side. (More on this voter from Slate's Dave Weigel here.) Back before the Bill Clinton days, he, too, was a Republican, when Bow was rejecting Michael Dukakis by 70%-29%.
Among Republicans, an elderly lady reported voting for Romney because he's the "mainstay." "I guess you could say I'm comfortable with him."
Another Republican, a jeweler and small business owner, voted for Romney over John McCain four years ago, but this time found him wanting compared to Newt Gingrich. She feels "like he's not afraid what needs to be said" when taking on Obama. Romney might have been preferable to McCain, but compared to Newt, she can't see how he "will stand up" to Obama's attacks. (Weigel also interviewed a late-deciding member of New Hampshire's huge state House of Representatives who broke for Gingrich here over Romney.)
Jon Huntsman was well regarded. Chris Benoit, 47, a certified financial planner, went for Huntsman as the best antidote to Rick Santorum, who's "a little too conservative on the social issues," especially wary of his absolutist pro-life position. (Benoit professed to be "against abortion, but...") He was also put off by Santorum's advocacy of means testing Social Security, perhaps not a fan of the populist tinge to Santorum's argument.
So, why did Benoit pick Huntsman over Romney, who got his vote in 2008? After ObamaCare, he took a look at RomneyCare and decided they were both "evil," and didn't relish a general election showdown between "two evils," two health care plans that meddle too much in private decisions.
Next stop: Exeter.