As we all know, the upcoming presidential election is about the economy and jobs.
So the economic fears and hopes of the electorate in early-voting states like Nevada and New Hampshire will play a significant role in who emerges from the GOP pack.
Despite the state’s financial stability, lots of Republicans voters see cloudy skies ahead.
When it comes to economics, New Hampshire is a little like that fictionalized Minnesota town.
You know, the one where "all the women are strong, and all the men are good looking."
Economist Ross Gittell says it’s true; New Hampshire’s got some attractive numbers.
“The national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent. New Hampshire, it’s currently 5.2 percent. New Hampshire has relatively high per capita income. Lowest poverty rate in the nation.”
But Gittell is quick to add, it’s all relative.
Like most everywhere else in the country, New Hampshire has lost jobs, had its confidence shaken.
“The economic outlook for families across New Hampshire has declined quite significantly since the last primary.”
During the Recession, in and around New Hampshire, residential construction work dried up.
That’s meant a slow down in business for Susan Collins and her husband who are trying to support their teenage daughters.
She says her clients -- penny-wise Yankee shop owners -- aren’t exactly excited when she comes in with her lighting fixtures.
“I know I’m not going to walk in and get an order from them, a big order. I know I am not going to get it, because they are not buying really right now. They are being very, very cautious in how they spend their money.”
Collins says she’s shopped for a presidential candidate who will lift the nation’s mood.
She gravitates to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
She likes that he helped turn around the Olympics, she wants to believe maybe he could help our economy, too.
See, for Collins, who lives in a nice neighborhood in Salem, with pretty homes and well-groomed lawns, this Recession has scared her and her neighbors.
People who never thought they’d have to worry.
“It’s an emotional thing. Talking about the economy ... you want your kids to have a good life ... and um, you do worry that things aren’t going to get better,” said Collins
For many New Hampshire Republicans, national economic concerns frame how they look at the Republican candidates.
But for union members in the party here, it’s different.
This past year, state lawmakers tried to turn New Hampshire into a so-called Right-to-Work state.
That would have meant workers could have benefited from a collective bargaining agreement without paying union dues.
It was a bitter campaign.
“I have never in 25 years been called a thug. The fact of the matter is that the tone has taken a toll on people.”
Jeff Brown is the fire chief in Seabrook and the treasurer of the Rockingham County Republican Committee.
Brown says the presidential contenders only fanned the flames when they backed the Right-to-Work legislation trying to curry favor with state politicians.
"These presidential candidates have a choice, they either want us, and us to stay home, or they want us to be active voting members of the party," said Brown.
When asked what police officers, firefighters and steel workers might be saying about the primary while discussing it over a beer, Brown said: “We’re staying home, or even better than that, we’ll give them what they want, we’ll pick out the nuttiest one in the bunch. And that’s who we are going to vote for. We just haven’t found the nuttiest one yet. You never know Ron Paul may reap the benefit of ticked off public employees.”
It’s not hard to find angry, frustrated Republicans in New Hampshire right now.
Like Fire Chief Brown, Joe and Judith Maloy feel beat up too, but for them it’s because they’re successful.
“One of the things that’s happened in this current economy, we’ve become the bad guys. The business owners, all of a sudden I’ve become Simon Legree and she’s Cruella Deville.”
The Maloys are among the most affluent in the state.
They run a successful mail order business expecting to gross more than $40 million dollars this year.
So successful, they actually want to expand their company, create new jobs.
But with so much economic uncertainty, Joe says the company can’t move right now.
“What’s unknown is, is that $10 an hour employee going to cost me $15, or is it going to be $18, $20, $25?”
The Maloys don’t know who they’ll vote for yet.
And for them, like many New Hampshire Republicans, they’re less interested in any particular person.
They just want the candidate who’s going to attack the deficit, stop the sense of economic free fall and help them be a little less scared.