President Obama Tries To Rally N.H. Voters

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President Obama speaks Tuesday at Manchester High School Central in Manchester, N.H. (AP)
President Obama speaks Tuesday at Manchester High School Central in Manchester, N.H. (AP)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is campaigning in Iowa Wednesday, amid reports that he could take that state's caucuses in January. But Tuesday, the focus of the political world was on New Hampshire, a Romney stronghold that saw the visit of the man Romney would face next year if he wins the Republican nomination.

President Obama won New Hampshire in 2008, but pollster Andy Smith says the president could lose the swing state next year.

"New Hampshire is one of the battleground states, it's going to be difficult for Obama to win in 2012," Smith said. "He currently has an approval rating of only 41 percent in New Hampshire with 53 percent disapproving, and even worse among independents."

Smith, who is director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, says in a hard times, people in the incumbent's party stay home on Election Day. So, on a tour of swing states, the president dropped in to Manchester Central High School to energize his supporters.

But he was barely getting into his routine when he was interrupted by about 15 protesters from Occupy New Hampshire, who started doing one of their signature mic checks, the call-and-response they use to broadcast messages. They stopped stopped the president's rally in its tracks. They were shouted down by supporters of the president, and then he addressed the Occupy protesters.

"[I] appreciate you guys making your point," Obama told them. "Let me go ahead and make mine, all right? And then I'll listen to you. You listen to me."

Unfortunately for the president, the protesters provided the most excitement of the whole rally. There was none of the electric current that ran through his events in New Hampshire when he was presidential candidate Barack Obama four years ago. Still, most of the people who showed up were enthusiastic supporters.

"His stimulus package and the things that he did stopped the impending depression, and I wanted to thank him for that," said Joe Bramante, of Derry.

Increasingly, polls in New Hampshire indicate that people in the state believe that Obama will face Romney in the general election next year.

"Romney is the only one of the Republican candidates that's consistently been able to top Obama in polls here," Smith said. "I think what Republicans are doing, both in New Hampshire and, to an extent, nationwide is saying: Romney may not be the candidate that we love, but he may be the candidate that we're going to have to go with because he seems to be the person who can take us to victory in November."


And in New Hampshire, Romney is running like a front-runner. He's ignoring his Republican rivals and focusing on the president.

Romney chose the day of the president's visit to launch his first television ad in New Hampshire. It features candidate Obama in 2008, then fades to white letters on a black background that say: "He failed."

With the New Hampshire primary still seven weeks away, sometimes it feels like the general election is already under way.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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