At a town hall meeting hosted by Huntsman last week, several independents who backed Obama in 2008 said they were exploring their options. Even Obama’s supporters expressed interest in the Republican primary, saying they were unsure that the president will be able to win this year.
“I think it is probably 50-50 that the next president is a Republican, so I think it’s very important to get it right,” said John Nelson, 49, an Obama supporter.
Karen Cahillane, a psychotherapist from Concord, said she voted for Obama in 2008 and plans to again. “But I’m listening,” Cahillane, 58, said.
A cancer survivor, Cahillane said a top priority for her is health care. She said she has been disappointed in Obama’s ability to push his agenda. “I read his book ‘Audacity of Hope,’ and I thought, ‘He gets it,’ ” she said. “I think every president’s hands are tied more than they think they are when they are up here stumping.” Her weariness extends beyond Obama, however, and although she is open to voting for a Republican, she says she probably will back Obama again.
Ginny Tirrell, 53, a seamstress at Globe Manufacturing, where Huntsman made a campaign stop Wednesday, said that four years ago, she voted for Obama — “unfortunately.” This year, she is planning to vote in the Republican primary and is deciding between Huntsman and Paul. But Romney is not on her radar screen, she said. “Something about him just turns me off,” she said.
The candidates have been attracting more politically mixed crowds than they did in Iowa. Among the voters at a Newt Gingrich town hall meeting Wednesday in the New Hampshire town of Laconia were a number of independents, as well as some registered Republicans who voted for Obama.
Retiree Kim Trask, 57, is unaffiliated but has voted Republican since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She is considering backing Gingrich or former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum — but not Romney. “I think he’s a little bit too moderate for me,” she said.
A few rows back sat retirees Bob and Judy Chase. He’s a Republican; she’s a Democrat. In a show of their political independence, however, Judy wore an elephant in one ear and a donkey in the other.
Both are intrigued by the Republican candidates now descending on their state, but both approve of Obama’s leadership. “He was a little naive, but I think he’s done a fairly good job,” Bob Chase said.
Judy Chase described herself as supportive of same-sex marriage and abortion rights but said she is troubled by the tendency of some people to vote exclusively on those matters. So she and her husband have another candidate to check out: Santorum.
Polling analysts Scott Clement and Peyton Craighill contributed to this report.