In New Hampshire, familiarity with Romney breeds . . .

Manchester, N.H. — Nancy Bridgewater hobbled to a voting booth at Manchester Memorial High School, leaning heavily on a cane.

She knew whom she was voting for: Mitt Romney, that nice man with a vacation home just up the road in Wolfeboro who’d governed neighboring Massachusetts for four years. He’d launched his presidential campaign in New Hampshire and ended it Monday night with a big rally in this city just an hour’s drive from Boston.

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“I know he’s an upright person,” Bridgewater said of Romney.

In truth, Bridgewater, a 73-year-old retiree, does not know the GOP nominee all that well. But for residents of southern New Hampshire, Romney is such a familiar figure that the relationship with him can feel personal. And on Tuesday, that familiarity was sometimes an advantage and sometimes a disadvantage.

Carolyn Laite, a 48-year-old middle school music teacher, said she knows Romney well enough to not trust him. Laite, a transplant to Manchester from Massachusetts, said Romney had slammed teachers and the unions that represent them for pushing for smaller class sizes. Romney argued that class sizes didn’t matter; engaged parents, strong principals and good teachers matter more.

“I’m not a Romney fan. I totally disagree with what he said about teachers and teachers unions, and my vote came down to that,” Laite said.

But Richard Evans, a business consultant who lives in Bedford, is a big Romney supporter.

“I like Mitt,” said Evans, a fiscal conservative who cast his ballot for the Republican. Others might accuse Romney of changing his positions to suit an audience, but Evans said he doesn’t believe any of that.

“I think he’s got business in his DNA,” Evans said. “He knows how to put together a budget. It’s a good idea to have a businessman for a change.”

As Karen Wood, a 39-year-old hairstylist, walked out of the high school behind Evans, she leaned over to whisper something as if spreading a bit of gossip about a neighbor.

“I don’t remember him being well-liked” in Massachusetts or in New Hampshire, she said. “I’m surprised at how close this race is.”

— Darryl Fears

 
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