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Voters’ fear, hope expected to result in big turnout

PLYMOUTH — The retired police officer and the Gulf War veteran shared a street corner and an Election Day message as chilly as the morning air: Times are hard, and if the wrong side wins, they will get worse.

On that they agreed. But Mike Delongchamps, who served in a Massachusetts National Guard unit during Desert Storm, was voting Democrat. Bill Powers, who served in the transit police for 35 years, waved signs for Republicans Charles D. Baker, candidate for governor, and Jeffrey D. Perry, a congressional hopeful.

“We need work,’’ Delongchamps said outside the polling place at Plymouth Town Hall, making his case for four more years of Governor Deval Patrick. “People are losing their homes. People need jobs. People are voting with their wallets.’’

Powers’s take: “We need change. The message is out with the old school and see what happens.’’

As the most fiercely contested state elections in recent memory unfolded across the state, voters offered up a similarly ambivalent message that stood in stark contrast to the sense of optimism and history-in-the-making that infused the elections of 2006 and 2008. From the gingerbread mansions of Newton to the industrial parks of Billerica and the three-deckers of Dorchester, voters were thinking not what their candidates would do for them, but what else could go wrong if the other guy wins.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin was predicting that turnout could top 2,424,579 million, the record in a nonpresidential election set in 1990. In 2006, 2,243,835 voters turned out to help Deval Patrick make history by becoming the state’s first black governor. In 2008, when President Obama was elected, 3,102,995 took part.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, 2,157,699 votes had been cast for the four candidates for governor.

“What we are seeing is that the interest in the congressional races is really what is stimulating the turnout,’’ Galvin said in a phone interview. Turnout in Boston, a Democratic stronghold, was steady, but not as intense as in the suburbs, because there were no close congressional races, Galvin said.

At Cardinal Medeiros Manor in Dorchester, there was no line at the polls at midday yesterday. It was in heavily minority precincts like this where ballots began running out in 2006, when Patrick was elected.

“A lot of people are using the old cliché that he didn’t do enough, so they are not voting,’’ Clifton Braithwaite said as he watched a crowd of young men and women at a bus stop on Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester. One man said he had not voted because “I don’t care about politics.’’ A woman next to him nodded her agreement.

Braithwaite, who works in marketing and promotions, said he voted for Patrick. But he expressed little of the “Together we can’’ optimism of 2006. Instead, he argued, Patrick deserved to be reelected because “he did not have time to achieve what he set out to do.’’

Michael Gill of Newton had to think long and hard about whether to vote for US Representative Barney Frank, who faced a tough challenge from Republican Sean Bielat in the Fourth Congressional District.

“Barney probably contributed to this mess,’’ Gill said outside Mason-Rice Elementary School in Newton Centre. But in the end, he and his wife, Oonagh, voted for Frank to prevent the GOP from gaining another vote in Congress. Oonagh Gill concluded that “eight years of Republicans got us into this mess.’’

Others believed it was time to return Republicans to power. Outside Eugene C. Vining Elementary School in Billerica, Ed Simone was supporting Marc Lombardo, the Republican candidate for state representative from the 22d Middlesex District.

“This state needs a two-party system,’’ Simone said. Simone, who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, said this election has none of the symbolism of the presidential vote. “This time, the election is about the economy.’’

In Methuen, the early morning rush never quite let up. The parking lot at Tenney Grammar School was still packed at 10 a.m., and a line of cars was backed up to the street.

Methuen is one of the state’s more conservative communities; in the 2006 governor’s race, Republican Kerry Healey beat Patrick by a few dozen votes, but lost statewide by 20 points.

As she left the brick school building after casting her ballot, Ellen Giblin, who usually votes Democrat, said she had thought she might support independent Tim Cahill for governor. But she began second-guessing herself last night, when she saw a poll on the news. “I liked him a lot, but he only had 9 percent,’’ said Giblin, a retired Raytheon worker. So she voted for Baker.

In Plymouth, crowds formed lines well before the polls opened at 7 a.m. The community that calls itself “America’s Hometown’’ mirrored the change in mood between November 2008, when it chose Obama, and January, when it chose Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in a special election for US senate.

That swing to the red was apparent in the beeps and waves being directed at Powers and his Baker and Perry signs. Across the street stood Richard Barbieri, whose truck was festooned with posters touting Patrick and the Democratic candidate for Congress, William R. Keating.

“I’m getting some beeps. I’m getting some waves,’’ he said. “I’m also getting the finger. But that’s America.’’

Lisa Wangsness and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. David Filipov can be reached at filipov@globe.com.  

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