Voters make last-minute decisions heading to NH polls

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MANCHESTER, N.H. – First-in-the-nation primary day finally arrived Tuesday, as voters in the Granite State’s largest city hit the polls while campaign volunteers made a last-ditch pitches in an effort to bring out every last potential supporter.

“This one is so undecided, I don’t even know who I’m going to vote for,” Jordyn Hoar, a Manchester resident participating in her first primary, said as she approached her polling place on Elm Street. “It is a lot more intense than other elections.”

Hoar said she spotted Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican candidate who entered primary day in third place, according to the latest average of major voter surveys compiled by Kasich met voters Tuesday morning outside another voting location near her house.

Last week, New Hampshire Secretary of State William M. Gardner predicted a high turnout, forecasting that Republican ballots cast will total 282,000 and Democratic ballots will reach 268,000.

In 2008, the last year the presidential primary lacked an incumbent, 234,851 Republican ballots and nearly 288,000 for Democrats were counted.

Further north on Elm Street at the Webster Elementary School voting location, a swarm of campaign volunteers backing various contenders stood elbow-to-elbow at the entrance to the auditorium. One stood out, as instead of urging voters to cast their ballots for a specific candidate, he was instead busy distributing leaflets urging them to shun a specific pol – real estate magnate Donald Trump.

“He’s not a conservative Republican,” said Brian Pryor, a Connecticut native who said he had spent the past six weeks in New Hampshire stumping for Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator who suspended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination after a poor showing last week in Iowa’s caucuses. Trump, Pryor said, “believes that the Republican party is just a name and doesn’t stand for anything and I’ve always believed that the Republican party has always stood for limited government.”

Pryor said he hasn’t decided on which candidate to support now that Paul has dropped out. The only thing Pryor said he’s certain about is that Trump is poor choice.

“When you hear Donald Trump speak in this inflammatory rhetoric to alienate voters that could possibly vote for the Republican party, it does a disservice to a long tradition and heritage of Republicans,” he said.

Meanwhile, another Paul backer said she decided to throw her support to Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who upset Trump by winning in Iowa. Goffstown resident Leah Wolczko, a libertarian, was busy toting signs denouncing the campaign of Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, and said she only decided on Cruz today.

“He courted the libertarian vote quite heavily and I think if Cruz were to come out of here in second he would at least attribute a part of that victory to us,” Wolczko said.

Trump, whose overall lead heading into Tuesday’s polling stood at about 17 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics, could count on Manchester resident Elaine Penchansky’s vote.

She attended a Trump rally Monday night at Manchester’s Verizon Center. At the event, Trump generated headlines with his vulgar language while ripping Cruz for what he claimed was the Texan’s weak stance on whether to use waterboarding interrogation techniques when questioning captured terrorism suspects.

A woman in the audience reportedly hollered out an insult using a vulgar term for Cruz which Trump repeated, to make sure all heard it.

“It’s media doing what media does,” Penchansky said about the fallout following the rally. “We just all broke up laughing because it was one of those moments.”

Penchansky said she thinks some of Trump’s appeal has a lot to do with the fact he’s not a “polished politician” and is prone to outbursts. The ex-reality television star and source of tabloid headlines in New York for decades has benefitted from “free media” through his constant stream of colorful and sometimes outrageous remarks on the campaign trail.

“I don’t think it ever would have come out of his month. The fact is that I don’t want a rehearsed speech. I believe he can turn the country around. He’s a businessman and as far as I’m concerned he’s not going to be pulled by anybody’s strings because nobody is owning him. That’s why so many people love him.”

Most polls in New Hampshire close by 8 p.m. Tuesday.