As N.H. Voters Wrestle With Final Primary Decisions, Some Drift From Trump

Feb 5, 2016

Donald Trump remains popular among N.H. primary voters, but many are considering other candidates as voting day arrives.
Credit Allegra Boverman / NHPR

Based on the large Donald Trump sign that decorates his lawn on South Road in Hopkinton, you might assume Eric Habben plans to vote for Donald Trump.

“Initially I was, but now I’m really torn as far as whether I will or not," Habben said.

He had just heard Marco Rubio speak at St. Anselm College. Habben is now considering candidates besides Trump. He says all have their plusses -- and their minuses.

“I am a little concerned about both Cruz and Rubio as far as only being one term senators, just like Obama," he said. "I’m concerned about Trump about not having all the wherewithal, maybe, to deal with politicians because he’s outside of that.”

Being "outside of that" has been at the core of Trump’s appeal this campaign season. He has topped the Republican field in every poll in New Hampshire for the past 7 months. But according to American Research Group pollster Dick Bennett, Trump’s defeat in Iowa, a state where he also led in the polls, has the potential to change things -- dramatically.

“With Trump losing, you take the deck of cards and throw it up in the air and start all over again, and the voters do too," Bennett said.

That said, Bennett’s own tracking polls have shown Trump holding the lead he had before his Iowa loss. But head out to Republican campaign events this week, and you’ll find voters who have cooled on Trump. Connie Puglisi is a retiree who came to Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett this week to see Ted Cruz.

“When Trump first came out I was like, I like what he has to say," Puglisi said. "He told it like it was, other people didn’t have the nerve to do that. But the more I listened to him, I’m like, 'All right, I’m done with you.' "

Ed Groves of Manchester, meanwhile, drives a car bearing two bumper stickers.

“Yeah, the Trump sticker has been on my car for a long, long time," he said. "I put the Cruz one over it.”

Groves still likes Trump but doubts he’s electable. He says he could also support Marco Rubio. His main goal us to ensure no Democrat ends up in the White House.

Paul Bousque, an independent from Pittsfield who will vote Republican, says he has a less partisan bottom line:

“I want someone who will stand up for the whole country and who the whole world can take seriously. And I’m not saying the Donald Trump can’t pull that off, but I want a full-rounded candidate.”

Bousque says he’s yet to figure out who that might be. He’s not alone.