Taste Test at the GOP Primary Buffet

Dec 23, 2011

In the last presidential primary, Democrat candidate Bill Richardson ran ads that cast running for president as nothing more glamorous than showing up for a job interview -- with citizens doing the vetting.

A voter’s task is at least that complicated and at a certain point, the decision comes down to a gut level preference.   NHPR’s Jon Greenberg has been talking with scores of voters to see how they add things up.  His most recent trip took him to a manufacturing plant in Milford.

Cirtronics makes printed circuit boards, those small green cards that make machines do smart things.  If you’re flying this Christmas, you might spot one of their products in action. John Witham is a manager in the final assembly area.

“If you go through any of the airports around here, you’ll see that when they do a wipe down, they wipe down your body with a patch and that patch is inserted into this and it will tell if you’ve been in contact with any kind of explosives or any types of drugs.”

About 150 people work at this large facility.  These are decent paying jobs that come with health insurance and a stake in the company profits.  Sitting in the company lunch room this day was Sue Winter. 

Winter approaches this primary with strong feelings, but not ones that begin with politics.  She wants a president who takes  the phrase “one nation under God” quite seriously.

“That’s very, very important to me.  And somebody who follows policies that God – under God’s will.”

Winter belongs to a church that takes the bible as the literal word of God.   Right now, she is torn between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.   One point where she has no political ambivalence is the imperative to replace President Barack Obama.

“”I can’t think of one good thing that Obama has done for the country, seriously.  I mean some people -- when I say ‘Tell me one good thing that Obama’s done for the country,’ Oh well, he got Bin Laden.  No.  He didn’t get Bin Laden.  The Navy Seals got Bin Laden.  I don’t know of anything that he has done for us except make everything worse.”

This sentiment is so strong,  it drowns out almost all other details about the president, including one where Winter has a direct interest.

“My husband has preexisting conditions and the cost of prescriptions is unbelievable.”

Until Winter took this job, her husband’s current health problems blocked them from getting health insurance. 

After the interview, we verified that the Affordable Care Act, the law Winter calls Obamacare and wants to see totally repealed, eventually would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people like her husband.  When we told that to Winter, she said she didn’t know about it, but she said, even if the new law did some things right, overall, it should be done away with.

A lunchroom can be a good place to sample a smorgasbord of political opinions and on the menu this day was the tempered view of Richard Ball.  He’s nearly 70 and if Mitt Romney has a good shot in this state, it’s thanks to people like Ball.  He assessed his options and decided Romney was the Goldilocks candidate, not too hot, not too cold.

“I have a real problem with the hard line approach.  Even though there are a lot things that need to be changed and reversed,  I wouldn’t want to see that happen all at once.  I think that would cause more trouble than the present situation.”

“This is an angry year.”

Tool maker Brian Edwards brings a spicier approach to the primary.

“People are fed up with what’s going on – congress, the government, president.”

The 51-year-old Edwards is a Ron Paul man and he likes a recent hard-hitting television ad for the Texas congressman.

“He talks about cleaning out the swamp.  That’s the way  we roll, he says.  I like that.  You know what?   I don’t think there’s anybody that watches those that can’t connect with Ron Paul.  Everybody’s angry and this is New Hampshire.  We do different things here.  Most assuredly, he can come here and win.”

Our final thought from the Certronics lunchroom comes from Matt McCormack, a young man who hasn’t even begun to look at the menu. McCormack is waiting to see who emerges from Iowa.  He figures it will come down to Romney or Gingrich.  Either one is fine with him.

“Basically, you just got to pick the guy who will do the best against Obama.”

McCormack  is the most casual of diners at the primary buffet.  He says he will make his choice and vote in the Republican primary because the alternative offered by the other party is simply too unappetizing.