NASHUA, N.H. — As voters came out in record numbers for a presidential primary here, Jan. 8, the great majority could agree on one thing: the need for a new direction for the country, away from the Bush/Cheney policies.
Many voters said they only made up their minds about who to vote for in the last few days before the primary, and many came to the polls without having made a decision.
Shopping at a mall in southern New Hampshire before he voted, Tim Welles expressed the mood of many in the state, saying, “Things got to change in America.” President Bush has let “jobs leave the country” while using tax dollars for “a stupid war,” Welles said. His anger, he said, was in part because he had to leave school to work when the plant where his stepfather worked closed. “I want to vote for someone who is different, maybe Obama or McCain,” he said.
New Hampshire handed a much-needed but slim win to Hillary Clinton with 39 percent of the vote, over Barack Obama’s 36 percent, and John Edwards’ 17 percent. Bill Richardson got 5 percent while Dennis Kucinich got 1 percent.
Thanking her supporters, Clinton sounded an anti-corporate note, saying, “The oil companies, the drug companies, the health insurance companies, the predatory student loan companies have had seven years of a president who stands up for them. It’s time we had a president who stands up for all of you.” Clinton and Obama each won nine convention delegates and Edwards won four. The race for the Democratic nomination is now in a virtual three-way tie, with Obama at a total of 25 delegates, Clinton 23 and Edwards 19.
On the GOP side John McCain won with 37 percent of the vote, defeating “favorite son” Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, who drew 32 percent. Mike Huckabee, who finished first in Iowa, came in third with 11 percent, Rudy Giuliani had 9 percent and Ron Paul drew 8 percent.
For workers here, jobs were a major concern.
“After the devastating impact of NAFTA on manufacturing and the middle class, this election more than ever is the most important election,” said Bill Pienta, Northeast regional director for the Steelworkers union. “There is no alternative to getting candidates speaking on the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs.”
Some 50-60 Steelworker volunteers spent the last weekend campaigning for Edwards here. Pienta credited Edwards with bringing the concerns of unions and workers into the presidential debates.
Michael Atkins and Silvia Gale reflected the varying views of voters here. Both are both board members of a local child advocacy agency. “Silvia and I believe in the same things — we just have a difference on who is the best person to lead,” Atkins, a lawyer, said as he held a Clinton sign.
Holding an Obama sign, Gale, a children’s advocate, said this year’s election is especially important because “we’re in a perilous state.” The outcome, she said, “affects our country and the globe.”
“As a life-long feminist, reproductive issues are really important to me,” Gale said. But the number one issue, in her view, is “putting an end to an unnecessary war that is robbing our upcoming generation.” Gale noted that, at her polling place, an older woman had told her, “It’s because of Barack Obama that I’m here voting. I have never voted in a primary election before.”
Born in El Salvador, Ester González, a medical assistant at a health clinic in Nashua, said her main concern is immigration reform. “I’m going to pick someone who is going to fix the status of people who don’t have any papers,” as a way to start “fixing” what’s wrong in the world, she said as she walked into her polling place with her husband and toddler son.
In Manchester, Margarita Jamie said she and her husband David were concerned about issues relating to working people. “We’ve been slammed in getting help from the government,” she said emphatically. “It’s important for me to get my vote in because it’s important for that to get taken care of and also health care is a big issue for me, too.” Jamie said health insurance costs have “gone skyrocket high and they should make it more affordable, especially for the middle-class people that are trying to make ends meet.”
On a record-breaking warm day, a record-breaking more than 526,000 voters turned out for the primary. In some places, poll workers had to make photocopies of ballots in order to have enough. Some precincts reported having to swear in poll workers as deputy registrars to handle the influx of voters registering for the first time on primary day. New Hampshire is one of a few states that allow same-day registration.
Susan Webb contributed to this article.