Circus-like atmosphere in New Hampshire

By Lisa Riley Roche | Posted - Jan. 10, 2012 at 4:58 p.m.


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MANCHESTER, N.H. — Voters in today's presidential primary election at a school near downtown were separated by barricades from the hordes of reporters and candidate supporters gathered outside.

The Webster Elementary School was the site of visits by several candidates throughout the morning, including former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who walked up and down one of the sectioned-off areas, answering questions from reporters.

Meanwhile, the Mitt Romney supporters in the crowd were yelling, "Go, Mitt, go," over and over, while the Huntsman backers strained to get a look at the candidate. Dressed in a red parka, with his wife, Mary Kaye, at his side, Huntsman looked relatively relaxed.

His staff said he was in an upbeat mood, following several days rising in the polls.

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Josh Sacks, an IT consultant from Arlington, Va., who took vacation time to volunteer for Huntsman in New Hampshire, said he's excited to see the results of today's GOP primary election.

"I think he's going to be surprising a lot of people tonight," Sacks said, predicting "a strong second place" finish for Huntsman.

Sacks said he joined the campaign because he believes Huntsman is "the only candidate with the experience and intellect to get us out of the hole we're in."

Some of the voters at the polling site simply shook their heads and hurried by the assembled television cameras and journalists as Manchester police — including two officers on horseback — kept the pathways to the polls clear.

"I think this is expected," Jessica Gilcrest, a school librarian, said about the circus-like atmosphere. "People get passionate about what they believe in. There's nothing wrong with that."

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As Mitt Romney appeared at a polling place in Manchester: mayhem. Hundreds of reporters, photographers and sightseers nearly blocked the purpose of the visit: to woo voters at the last minute.

In the end, one of those voters picked the visiting candidate, but only reluctantly. "I voted for Romney for lack of a clear anybody else," chuckled Pamela Evans. "He was the best choice for right now."

Gilcrest declined to say who she voted for, but said she told her two young children accompanying her that "it's our responsibility to pick a leader." The toddlers, however, appeared more interested in the police horses.

Eleanor Dunfey, however, had no problem telling reporters she voted in the Democratic primary even though President Barack Obama faces no opposition for his party's nomination.

Dunfey said she never considered voting in the GOP primary but did like Huntsman after seeing him speak at the Southern New Hampshire University commencement, where she is a professor of business ethics.

"I respect him. The rest of (the Republican field), I've been disturbed by the lack of substance," Dunfey said. "I don't think the focus is on the serious issues of the world."

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Written by Lisa Riley Roche with contributions from Richard Piatt.

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