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How You Win an NH Independent’s Vote…

You meet ’em and greet ’em and then do it again, and again, and again.

In the week leading up to the primary, candidates flooded the state to visit coffee shops, diners, and townhalls. They engaged in true-to-form “Retail Politics” where candidates met voters in their local environments, cracked jokes, and kissed babies. Candidates sign autographs and shake hands at breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffee breaks, snacks, and so on— it’s as much about actually meeting the voters as it is to be seen and photographed meeting voters (Prescott, 2012).

Here’s a breakdown of the top three winners’ Independent strategies in the state.

Mitt Romney
With a demonstrated homefield advantage, Romney tried to appeal to independent voters by minimizing the importance of social issues, establishing himself as the most “presidential” candidate in the field, and reminding voters of his success in the state in 2008. Romney capitalized on the fact that many people registered “undeclared” or “independent” traditionally align with one party by maintaining the role of being far more moderate than his Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul counterparts. As for the most important issues to NH Independents, the economy and federal deficit, voters believed that Romney has the most experience in those fields and would be the candidate most likely to succeed against Obama.

Ron Paul
A favorite among young independents for his libertarian outlook, military history, and “straight-shooting” style, Paul placed second in NH. With younger voters registering “undeclared” to assert their independence, they find a match with Paul’s liberal ideas on social issues and his fiscally conservative economic policies. Also, Paul found a niche among those most dissatisfied with the current government. Since he comes from such an extreme base, his voters aren’t coming from the traditional Republican party, and they were a large part of the undeclared voters in NH.

Jon Huntsman
Huntsman counted on the last-minute independent voters in the state to give him the edge he wanted to win. He spent more time in the state than any other candidate in the months leading up to the race and tried to woo constituents of all parties- independent, Republican, and even Democrat. Huntsman believed he could win Independents’ votes because of his moderate stance on many important issues like evolution, civil unions, and  global warming. The New England newspaper giant, The Boston Globe endorsed Huntsman (over hometown candidate, Romney) on January 6th which helped legitimize his candidacy. Political analysts agree that Huntsman won over many Independents in the final days who otherwise would have cast their votes for Romney by holding several meet-and-greets like the overwhelming popular one at the BeanTowne Coffee House in Hampstead, N.H.

Huntsman at a townhall in Keene, N.H.
Photo by Meagan Shamberger

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