EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 5, 2012

As primary nears, many voters still undecided

By Doug Ireland

The GOP presidential primary is only five days away, but many Southern New Hampshire residents still aren't sure who they will vote for Tuesday.

Approximately 80 percent of the three dozen people interviewed yesterday said they just don't know who will get their support. Many, torn between two candidates, said they expect to decide this weekend.

But others said they will need a little more time to choose. They won't decide until they have the ballot in their hands.

"It's going to be when I walk in," said Chase Barr, 46, of Derry.

Barr said he's learning toward former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"I think he's the smartest person on the planet," he said.

But of the slim percentage who are certain, the majority plan to back former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

"Mitt — he's my man," said Lynne Ulaky, 48, of Windham. "He's going to fix everything — and everything sure needs to be fixed."

Only a day after emerging victorious in the Iowa caucus, Romney continues to be the front-runner in New Hampshire, where he has consistently led in the polls.

Romney topped former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum by just eight voters Tuesday, but voters are still confident Romney is the Republican candidate to beat in next week's primary and in the November election.

"I like his honesty in about everything he does," said Walter Smith, 71, of Derry. "Hopefully, he gets elected and he can straighten out that guy in Washington."

Many voters still undecided

Ron Daren, 66, of Salem also is considering backing Romney. Daren said he thinks Romney has the most experience to lead the nation.

"I'm still undecided, but probably Romney," he said. "You need to run the country as a business and not as a bloody political football."

Daren said he was surprised with the close finish in Iowa between Romney and Santorum. Romney should have won easily, he said.

But few local voters interviewed said they followed the caucus.

"I don't want to put Iowa down, but ..." Daren said.

Theresa Steele, 74, of Nashua is still undecided, but leaning toward Romney as well.

"I think Romney might be able to do the job," she said.

Some voters were surprised Santorum nearly beat Romney in Iowa. They don't expect the same to happen in New Hampshire, where Romney owns a summer home and is familiar to most Granite Staters.

"I think he's a flash in the pan," Smith said of Santorum. "We'll find out next week."

But Thomas Moyers disagrees.

The 51-year-old Derry resident said he's not surprised Santorum did so well in Iowa, despite his low ranking in the polls.

Moyers said he had trouble deciding between Santorum, businessman Herman Cain and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. But Cain dropped out last fall and Bachmann bowed out yesterday after a poor showing in Iowa.

"It was a process of elimination," Moyers said.

Paul attracts more young voters

For many younger voters, many of whom will cast their first ballots next week, the candidate of choice is Paul. Some said they are more in tune with Paul's views on the issues.

"In general, I'm supporting Ron Paul because I like his Libertarian views," said Scott Doe, 19, of Derry.

"He's more mainstream," said Victoria Johnston, 19, of Derry.

Her friend, Devan Chirgwin, 18, of Chester, agreed.

Chirgwin said the other GOP hopefuls are too focused on attacking President Barack Obama's administration.

"I like how he's trying to stay out of it in the war between the two parties and decide what's best for the country," she said of Paul.

The two college students were eating lunch yesterday at MaryAnn's Diner in Derry, a restaurant frequently visited by presidential candidates. Photographs of candidates, including Romney and Paul, line the walls. Romney last stopped by this summer, general manager Christina Andreoli said.

"A little bit of everybody comes through here," she said.

While Romney and Paul top the polls, some aren't afraid to back candidates at the bottom. That includes Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor and ambassador to China.

"I'm still trying to decide who I will vote for," said Angela Boyle, 44, of Londonderry. "I will probably lean toward Huntsman — he has a lot of global knowledge."

Boyle said she isn't concerned Huntsman's popularity may be fading. Huntsman skipped the Iowa caucus to campaign in New Hampshire.

"I know he's low in the polls, but I will still vote for him," she said.

Zack Lyons, 21, of Pelham is still trying to choose a candidate.

"I haven't really weighed all my options yet," he said. "There is so much talk about what candidates are going to do or not do. I'm not really sure."

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