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Independent Voters Respond to Weekend Debates


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

We've been listening in as some undecided voters work their way toward being decided. These voters are in New Hampshire. Their state holds the nation's first presidential primary tomorrow. The voters were paying attention to ABC News and Facebook debates over the weekend.

And NPR's Linda Wertheimer was paying attention to them.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Will three hours of face time with all 10 candidates make the sale to voters both undecided and independent? Not easily. Dan Rothman(ph) sells computers. He listened to the Republicans and made some cuts.

Ms. DAN ROTHMAN (Resident, New Hampshire): Giuliani, Romney and Thompson frightened me with their approach to the world - that we know better with preemptive strikes, and so they're off my list. And I'm looking for strong Republican candidate who is a reasonable person.

WERTHEIMER: Most of our independents who lean Democratic like John McCain. Al Davenport(ph), who sells industrial equipment, is in that group. In other years, he might even have voted for him.

Mr. AL DAVENPORT (Resident, New Hampshire): I think that John McCain made - he impressed me a little bit more today because I think he's a little bit more sincere than he was before. I think he is a man who believes in what he's doing even though I don't believe in everything that he believes in. I think he is a man of his own convictions.

WERTHEIMER: But some McCain fans felt he should not have mocked Mitt Romney for changing his positions on issues like abortion. McCain called Romney the candidate of change. Amy Briar(ph), who works for a software company, thought that was beneath him.

Ms. AMY BRIAR (Resident, New Hampshire): In the past and other debates, he has really risen above, I think, the fray of the rest of that kind of stuff. So I was a little disappointed to see him go there. I still passionately believe he's a person who could lead our country successfully in the future.

WERTHEIMER: Steve Cavatar(ph) works with disabled people. He will vote in the Democratic primary, where change is the big issue. He was amused by McCain.

Ms. STEVE CAVATAR (Resident, New Hampshire): He tried to bring that out in the debate and Romney reacted against him and said that personal bias wouldn't really be helpful right now, and yet he's the one that's running negative ads on TV and then he's in the debate going wah, wah, wah.

WERTHEIMER: What about the man who won the Iowa caucuses, Mike Huckabee? Barbara King(ph), who's a marketing manager for a computer company, noticed less talk of Christian values.

Ms. BARBARA KING (Resident, New Hampshire): I thought he almost tried to hide them tonight. That - he talked about God when he impacted the Constitution, when he referenced that. Other than that, he really - I don't think we saw the true Huckabee, or at least the gentleman he was in Iowa, and the person I think he'll be in any Southern primary.

WERTHEIMER: Huckabee impressed Tony Lamoli(ph) who works for the phone company.

Mr. TONY LAMOLI (Resident, New Hampshire): I think Huckabee, who I've seen so far, could stand up at least with his personality and charisma to Obama. If Huckabee cannot be portrayed as a whacko, right-wing, Bible thumper, I think he has a chance, at least, intellectually at standing up and dealing with Obama.

WERTHEIMER: That conversation took place between debates. After 90 minutes of Democratic candidates, we finally had a decision. Dot Porniay(ph), office manager for a nonprofit group.

Ms. DOT PORNIAY (Resident, New Hampshire): I came here leaning toward Obama, but I think that Richardson took my vote tonight.

WERTHEIMER: Pat Garren(ph) is still undecided. She liked the front-runners but worried a bit about Obama.

Ms. PAT GARREN (Resident, New Hampshire): I'm wondering if he were feeling well tonight because he was so low-key. I saw him yesterday and he was very animated. I thought Hillary Clinton did extremely well tonight. I have not heard her in person. And I think she probably helped herself after not doing so well in Iowa.

WERTHEIMER: At the end, the majority of our group thought they'd likely vote for some Democrat. Dan Rothman said he was very impressed with Obama and by the end of the debate liked Clinton. However…

Mr. ROTHMAN: I'm voting strategically. I'm not voting for president, and I may well vote in the Republican for Huckabee, who is a pleasant surprise, or McCain just to avoid having any of these lunatics winning the primary for the Republicans.

WERTHEIMER: To help the GOP pick a candidate he can live with, you understand, just in case.

Steve Capithorn's(ph), voting for a Democrat. He said his family has been playing "if the election were today" since last summer.

Mr. STEVE CAPITORNS (Resident, New Hampshire): Most everybody on the porch said Hillary. And we did the same thing in my sister's living room at Thanksgiving and everybody said Obama. And then we did the same thing in a restaurant at Christmastime and everybody said, I'm undecided.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Undecided, independent New Hampshire voters we met in Concord.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.
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