Ray Duckler: Searching for the elusive undecided voter at an Obama rally
Lines for President Obama's rally in downtown Concord ran the length of Main Street a few times and started before sunrise on November 4, 2012. The President is spending the last few days before this election campaigning in swing states across the country with guests. Former president Bill Clinton joined President Obama for his Concord stop.
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A spectator hands James Greenlow of Concord his cell phones to get photos of the stage from Greenlow's perch in a sycamore tree on North State Street as Barack Obama rallies a crowd of thousands in downtown Concord; Saturday, November 4, 2012. The President and former President Bill Clinton spoke on a stage set up in North State Street two days before the general election.
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The sun’s not up, but I am, looking for the most important person in the world.
I’m looking for the undecided voter, the independent voice, the open mind who we’ve been told is living amongst us, ready to influence war and peace and jobs and taxes.
The latest poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center says President Obama and Mitt Romney are dead even, each with 47 percent of the vote in the Granite State. That means one individual, Mr. or Ms. Undecided, could swing the election one way or the other.
That’s what we keep hearing, that a small percentage of likely voters have yet to choose, with Election Day hovering like a hanging chad.
The latest number here stands at 6 percent.
Who are these people?
Where are these people?
Downtown will surely hold the answer. It’s about 5:30 a.m., cold, windy, raw, dark. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are already lined up, hoping to shoehorn themselves into a rally featuring former president Bill Clinton and Obama himself.
Rarely has the city hosted a pair of heavyweights like this. Maybe never. The line moves down School Street from North State, turns left and runs deep into the Merrimack County Savings Bank parking lot, squirts back onto School, then filters out into layers on Main Street, like parallel rows at an airport ticket counter.
Doors open at 7.
Bill is due at 10:30.
But at least there’s plenty of time to research. Plenty of time to find someone still weighing each man’s policies, although they are as far apart as the first and last people in line.
But the poll says 6 percent aren’t sure, so let’s go.
Kaitlyn Taft is a high school math teacher from Marlborough. She’s already stuffed the hand warmers handed out by Team Obama into her boots. Maybe she’s not sure who she likes yet.
“When Romney speaks, I don’t believe him,” Taft says. “He’s a liar. He’s been outed several times during ads and in the debates. I don’t believe there are no tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Hmm. Taft seems to know
who she likes.
Maybe that small percentage described in the poll doesn’t exist.
“People may drag their friends or family out who are undecided,” says Taft’s friend, Kalyn Millette of Swanzey, from behind six layers of clothing. “Maybe they brought them out here to get a feel to see what it’s all about.”
Darlene Underhill is a nurse consultant from Exeter. She and her husband, Jim, woke up at 3 a.m. to get here. Perhaps this rally will help them make up their minds.
“I think there are so many things I like about Obama,” Darlene says. “I am very much in support of Obama
care. I don’t think Romney has been truthful. I think he changes his mind, and it’s hard to know at this point what he believes.”
“All the negative talk about no work and the recovery, it’s all baloney,” says the quality assurance specialist. “It takes time. I think Romney has just lied about so many different things.”
So we continue, in search of the voter who needs more information, more speeches, more something to decide who the next leader of the free world should be.
Abigail Timberlake is a senior at Bow High. She’s 17, four months shy of her birthday and the right to vote.
The election, though, touches her close to home.
“I have a brother who’s gay,” Timberlake says. “I just see how Romney’s campaign is really affecting him. I worry about how hard the gay community has fought to get where they are, and I worry that Romney might halt the progress they’ve made.”
Leah Blazon of Concord is a pre-school speech tutor, standing with her friend, Leslie Joyner, who volunteers on several local boards.
Joyner doesn’t tiptoe around when asked about the presidential race, saying, “Romney aligns himself with a portion of the country that is uneducated and turns their head to science.
“I cannot imagine living in a country where people like that are in charge of me.”
Blazon gives her friend a high five over her juicy thought, then says, “I’m the mother of two teenage boys, and I’m concerned that they could be drafted if Romney’s elected. That’s a huge concern for us.”
The search is five hours old by the time Clinton climbs the stage on North State Street, at 10:38 a.m.
He says something curious, recalling the time he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar as a kid.
He calls Romney a contortionist, joking that Obama’s opponent bends and twists his policies to fit into tight spaces.
A helicopter buzzes the blue sky, snipers peek over rooftop ledges and the sun has finally topped a couple of downtown buildings, taking some of the bite from the air.
Obama follows at 11:04 and thanks the crowd, estimated by officials to be 14,000.
He says “Folks in New Hampshire are tough.”
One of those folks is Susan Lynch.
No, not the state’s First Lady. This one lives in Stowe, Mass.
She’s a teacher.
“We had some unemployment problems for a short period of time,” Lynch said, “so I resent Romney’s comment about 47 percent of people being slackers. It was offensive, and those people are not here.”
Neither, it appears, were the 6 percent.