MANCHESTER, N.H. -- With voting underway in the second contest of the 2012 Republican primary season, Mitt Romney is expected to win easily -- but interviews with voters in New Hampshire's largest city show that his opponents are making headway, especially among people whose primary concern is not the economy.
Voters who cited the economy as the most important issue tended to support Romney, while Ron Paul supporters were more focused on civil liberties and foreign policy. Those who backed Jon Huntsman were less concerned with specific policy issues than with their candidate's level-headedness and his outsider status.
Sees Huntsman As Breath of Fresh Air
I think he's a breath of fresh air -- something different, a voter who gave her name as Jennifer said of Huntsman.
That Washington insider question seemed to be a double-edged sword for Newt Gingrich. His supporters praised his extensive governing experience -- he has a proven track record of getting done what's he trying to get done, said a voter who gave his name as Alan -- but other voters said they had rejected him in part because of that experience.
For example, a voter who gave his name as Keith said he had considered voting for Gingrich but settled on Romney because he saw Gingrich as a big-government guy.
Of Romney, Keith said, I know his business record is fantastic, his family record is fantastic. ... I just think that he can contribute the most with respect to the economy, more than anything else.
Ron Paul's supporters seemed to be the most committed to the specifics of their candidate's platform.
I'm all in favor of ending the Fed. I'm all in favor of sound money, competition in currency, Joe Domenico said while holding a Ron Paul sign outside a voting precinct. I want to see the government reduced. I think we have too many alphabet-soup departments.
Mark, an independent voter, added of Paul, He's a strict constitutionalist. He wants to go by what the constitution says. He wants to bring the troops home and he wants to cut the budget. It just seems to be the correct choice.
Likes Paul's Views on Civil Liberties
Domenico also praised Paul's views on civil liberties.
The Patriot Act, the NDAA -- I'm afraid that just standing around on the corner holding a Ron Paul sign, at some point in the future, could be a treasonable offense, he said. It's got to stop.
But for other voters, particularly independents, the choice came down more to perceptions than policies.
I just think he knows a little bit about everything, Linda Bourque said of Romney. I was watching the debates and everything, and he seemed to know what he was talking about.
Brian, an independent who usually votes Democratic but is supporting Huntsman this year, said, I saw him in the debates Saturday night, and I just liked the way he presented himself and his views.
And Christine Gearty, an independent voter who considered Romney before settling on Paul, said: It's just kind of a gut thing.