PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — New Hampshire is shaping up to be one of the battlegrounds of this year’s general election.
Andy Smith is the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and he thinks President Obama’s decision to endorse gay marriage will help mobilize New Hampshire Democrats.
“The economy’s down. Republicans are really excited and mad about that. Republicans will get out and vote,” Smith said. “It’s going to be hard to get Democrats to come out and vote, and taking a position on an issue like this is something that I think will help energize Democrats and will help get them out to the polls.”
Portsmouth is just about as good a place as any in New Hampshire to find out whether President Obama’s newly announced support for gay marriage will help him motivate Democrats to turn out for him.
In the last general election, 70 percent of the voters here went for Barack Obama against John McCain. But Thursday, we couldn’t find anyone who said they’d be more motivated to vote for the president because of his announcement.
“I was going to vote for him anyway,” said Julie Alexenberg as she was walking into her jewelry shop.
Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, hopes that President Obama’s new position will help him with younger voters.
“Marriage equality is an important issue for young voters,” Buckley said. “They support marriage equality overwhelmingly, so I suspect that there will be some young folks under the age of 25 that may not only decide to vote but may actually want to get involved.”
But don’t count on 25-year-old Liam Geary to vote for the president. Geary was sitting at an outdoor cafe in Portsmouth, holding a big ball of lime-green wool for a friend who was knitting.
“If I voted, yeah, I would probably be more likely to vote for him, because everyone should have freedom in what they decide to do,” Geary said.
But Geary is not likely to vote.
“Probably not,” he said. “I personally don’t really think my vote matters. It doesn’t.”
And attitudes like Geary’s could be a problem for the president. Young people gave him huge margins in 2008. A Tufts University survey found that he won 18-29-year-olds in New Hampshire by 24-points.
But last month, a Harvard Institute of Politics survey of 14 swing states, including New Hampshire, found that the president is struggling with younger voters. He leads Mitt Romney by a mere 14-point margin.