Each weekend I post a “Weekly Wrap,” or my impressions of the race as they played out during the past seven days.
1. Republicans are angry, Democrats are anxious
Democrats gave it everything they had in 2008, electing President Barack Obama on promises of hope and change that would be hard for most individuals to live up to.
And Democrats are worried. They’re worried Obama’s not moving fast enough, that he hasn’t closed down Guantanamo or jump-started the economy as everyone had hoped. They see the prospects of a GOP takeover in the fall and prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s understandable that Obama’s approval ratings have taken a dip.
On the right, Republicans have watched the first 18 months of the Obama administration in horror — especially those Republicans in New Hampshire who believe in good old Yankee frugality. Most have been outraged watching the national debt balloon and the federal government spend money with abandon.
2. Republicans focused on party unity, Democrats with connecting
So how these different voter fears have played out within the parties has affected how the candidates campaign — in locations, types of event, and messages conveyed. While the veteran candidates with more name recognition (Republican Charlie Bass and Democrat Katrina Swett) have been slightly less visible in the district so far, the party differences seem to generally hold true.
Most Republican campaign events so far have featured all three candidates in conjunction with the rest of the GOP hopefuls for Congressional, Senatorial, and Gubernatorial offices. There is usually a great show of party solidarity against the Democrats at these picnics, dinners, and ice cream socials where most of the supporters are white, middle-class couples.
Most of the Republican candidates also attend a good number of town GOP committee meetings, where they are invited to talk about why they are running and take questions. These meetings, which are usually sparsely but passionately attended, are probably a good indicator of Republican sentiment and potential for voter turnout — strong and stronger.
The Democrats have campaigned differently so far. Kuster has launched series of house parties, talking to voters in their homes throughout the state, striking a familiar tone with constituents and creating a different atmosphere than formal town meetings. Swett has not been very visible at all, although that will likely change as the primary nears.
But both have worked to highlight their ties to the state, their commitments to traditionally Democratic social causes, and Republican connections to Washington in an attempt to forge personal — over party — relationships with voters.
3. Free Staters: anyone’s guess
At first glance, it was a gun-toting, weed-smoking, Ron Paul t-shirt-wearing free for all. There were people camping everywhere, and no shortage of “Obama Bin Lyin” bumper stickers or alcohol. It was a very peculiar sight.
But the movement, which is organized by Libertarians hoping to move 20,000 people to the state and assert their political influence, gave an interesting sense of New Hampshire’s strong independent streak and often negative reactions toward government.
While most of the PorcFest-goers won’t vote in the New Hampshire primary — many are out-of-state — the fact that they see the state as a friendly receptor of their movement and positive place to live says a lot about the potential future of politics here.
And the future of Ron Paul t-shirt vendors.