In New Hampshire, the only unifier for voters is fervor

Voters in Dixville Notch, N.H., prepared to cast their ballots just after midnight Tuesday. The 46 voters who live there and Hart’s Location voted first.
Voters in Dixville Notch, N.H., prepared to cast their ballots just after midnight Tuesday. The 46 voters who live there and Hart’s Location voted first.
ROGERIO BARBOSA /AFP/Getty Images

MANCHESTER, N.H. — When she lost her shipping job with an automotive company during the recession, Kelly Ng’s unemployment benefits carried her through. She credited President Obama with keeping her family afloat during those tough times, and Tuesday she voted for him again.

“When I was unemployed, he kept extending unemployment benefits so it was not so bad trying to find a job,’’ said Ng, 36, gently swinging her 6-week-old daughter, Jasmine, snuggled in her car seat. “Luckily, he got things turned around so I was able to go back to the same job” when her company began rehiring.

Obama was the projected winner of New Hampshire’s four electoral votes, taking a critical swing state from Mitt Romney, who focused heavily on the state he used as a backdrop for his presidential announcement and where he owns a vacation home.

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Nancy Lavigne, a 73-year-old retired bank worker, almost always votes for the Democrat in presidential races. Yet on Tuesday morning, Romney got her vote, because, unlike Ng, she doesn’t think Obama has done enough.

“I think we need a change,” she said as she emerged from the Pope Pius X religious education center, the polling place for Ward 6, on Manchester’s east side. “Things are not moving fast enough. It’s been four years, and they’re not doing anything. It’s time to try someone else.”

Turnout was heavy Tuesday morning; the parking lot was packed and a line of voters stood waiting when the polls opened at 6 a.m., officials said.

It was sunny and cold, with temperatures hovering around freezing, and traffic was steady. The 30 or so volunteers holding signs along the front walk — Republicans lined up neatly on the right, Democrats on the left — were bundled up in parkas and thick gloves. By 9:30 a.m., 1,200 of the ward’s 7,000 or so registered voters had cast ballots, said the ward clerk, Leo Veilleux.

State Representative Larry Gagne — who was holding a sign for US Representative Frank Guinta, a fellow Republican running for reelection in the state’s First Congressional District — said it was by far the busiest morning he’d seen in this ward since 1968.

“The lines are so drawn, there’s no fence-sitting,” he said. “I don’t think there is much voter apathy.”

Secretary of State William Gardner predicted that turnout statewide would be about 70 percent of the voting-age population. It was 69 percent in 2008.

The opening hours tend to draw the most dedicated voters, particularly in this politics-obsessed swing state.

Anthony Lambrou, 55, who was employed by the gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. until he broke his neck last year, arrived at the polls fresh from deer hunting, still clad in camouflage. He voted for Romney.

“I know he won’t take my guns away,” he said.

Anita Laventure, a Republican, scoffed when a reporter mentioned the president. “What does he know about business? Nothing,” she said.

Then there was Sister Jacqueline Verville, 76, a sister of the Holy Cross who cofounded the Holy Cross Family Learning Center for immigrants and refugees. She attributed her reliable support for Democrats to her parents.

“I believe in him,” she added, referring to Obama.

And Matt Box, a 31-year-old social worker, praised Obama for rebuilding the auto industry, ending the war in Iraq, and ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military. Fixing the economy, he said, will take a while.

“We have to be patient and keep pushing forward.”

But Mary Johnson, 53, an undeclared voter who works at Federal Express, said her patience had run out.

“I guess I don’t see it getting better,” said Johnson, who voted for Romney. “I’m not even sure change will help.”

David Slack, 31, and his wife, Brandy Camacho, 30, both Democrats who voted for Obama, made sure they got to the polls early. They have noticed a lot of Romney signs around their neighborhood.

“We’ve got to come cancel out their votes.” Slack said with a laugh.