In Swing Town In A Swing State, Voters Say VP Pick Makes No Difference

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White voters who don't have a college degree present a possible target of opportunity for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. President Obama is not polling well with those voters. But Romney has not been doing well with them either. Romney's new running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a conservative Catholic, could help win over some of those voters.

In the swing state of New Hampshire, Obama beat John McCain by a margin of 9 points. This year, Romney is making it a closer race: this summer's polls show him, at worst, trailing Obama by 4 points, and at best, in a tie with the president.

Romney's team in New Hampshire sees its candidate as appealing to the state's famously independent voters.

Over the years, as well-paid, educated workers from around the country have poured into New Hampshire, the state has become increasingly Democratic. But the newcomers near the border with Massachusetts have helped to keep New Hampshire competitive for Republicans. Many are working-class people who have fled Massachusetts' high cost of living and high taxes.

Four years ago, Obama barely won the town of Kensington. If Romney is to take New Hampshire out of the president's column this year, one way to do it is to win over working-class voters in places like Kensington.

On a rainy Sunday morning, it seems like everyone in town is at the Country Brook Cafe. Many have come in pickup trucks.

No one thinks Ryan will make any difference in this race.

George McGowan is a retired construction worker from Seabrook, a nearby town that McCain barely won. McGowan moved there from Massachusetts. He's not being swayed by Romney's choice of Ryan but he was already backing the president.

"I'm a part of the middle class, and the middle class is being crushed by people like Romney," McGowan says.

The choice of Ryan as a running mate hurts Romney's standing with Marcelle Worth, from Exeter. The town went overwhelmingly for Obama in the last election. Earlier this year, Republicans in Congress supported a bill that would have allowed employers to withhold medical coverage for birth control. At first, Romney said he was against the measure, but later, his campaign said he was for it. Worth sees Romney as being against birth control, and she sees the choice of Ryan, a conservative Catholic, as proof.

"I don't like the fact that he's against contraception, and to me, that's not his business," Worth says.

Peter O'Dowd is from Seabrook. He also moved there from Massachusetts. He works in IT. He's found the last four years unsure, he says, and he's not inclined to support either the president or Romney. The vice presidential pick does not change that.

"The vice president, to me, is not an important choice," O'Dowd says.

But for most voters exit polls the choice of a vice presidential candidate is an important one. In 2008, most voters polled said that McCain's choice of Palin was a factor in their vote. But it might not be a factor important enough to tip the election. Among voters who said Palin was a factor, most voted for McCain.

This program aired on August 13, 2012.

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



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