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Elaine Sweeney of Derry, N.H., hosted a gathering of female voters to talk about Tuesday's primary. (NPR)

Over Wine And Doughnuts, N.H. Women Get Heated Over Primary Vote

by NPR Staff
Jan 9, 2012

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On Morning Edition Monday, Steve Inskeep speaks with six women in Derry, N.H., who all plan to vote in Tuesday's first presidential primary.

Inskeep dropped by the home of Elaine Sweeney, where the women gathered for coffee, doughnuts and wine on Sunday to talk politics. Her house in Derry overlooks Beaver Lake, covered this time of year with a thin film of ice.

Several of the women have been attending debate parties and candidate events. Linda Dupere has repeatedly attended protest rallies. "I'm a Tea Partyer," she said. "We want to see elected officials who are going to get in there and change big government."

All the women felt some connection to the issues dominating this election. Samantha Boudreau is 21 years old, and studying to be a pharmacist.

"Job creation is a big issue, and in New Hampshire I think we've been doing pretty well in the past few months creating jobs, but being a student, I will be graduating next May, and I'm going to have significant student loans to pay off, so getting a job is very important," said Boudreau, who said she'll owe over $140,000 when she graduates.

The women range from students to retirees, and it was easy to hear the high expectations they'll have for whoever wins this election.

They want to cut back federal spending, but at the same time, several collect Social Security and Medicare, and they don't want future generations to live worse than they did.

Then there's Traci Homol, the mother of a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old. She's worried about federal deficits and debt.

"We cannot afford Obamacare. This country absolutely cannot afford Obamacare. And what this election comes down to is are you going to vote for an entitlement society that's going to end up like Europe, broke, with everybody going, 'Oh, I'm not getting my stuff,' or are you going to be a self-reliant society where everybody goes, 'OK, we've got to buckle down, we've got to tighten the belt, we've got to move forward.' That's what I'm looking for. And that's why I want [Rick] Perry. And if it's not going to be Perry, then I will go with whoever is the Republican nominee — Newt," Homol said.

"Can we afford not to fix health care? I mean, health care costs in the United States are twice as high as anywhere else in the world," Boudreau jumped in.

Even at this fairly conservative table, the pharmacy student was not afraid to say she voted for President Obama in 2008.

Boudreau still likes Obama, but New Hampshire residents can vote in either primary, and she's backing Jon Huntsman on Tuesday.

Independent voters like her can be a factor here. Many independents are backing Ron Paul. When we named each candidate and asked these voters what words come to mind, though, Paul didn't do well with this particular group. "Ineffective," "scary," "frightening," "fanatical," they said.

Other strong responses came for Newt Gingrich — words ranging from "brilliant" to "over the top."

Mitt Romney got everything from "smart" and "organized" to "leadership" to "not trustworthy."

Gail Gorham was dismayed that Romney had started to seem like the inevitable nominee. Then a disagreement developed.

On one side was Dupere, a Gingrich fan, who thinks of Romney as a "flip-flopper."

On the other was Sweeney, our host, who dismissed Gingrich and came to Romney's defense.

The women debated whether Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on abortion. "That's a value you don't change on," said Dupere.

"How about Newt? you don't think he's changed his values about marriage and fidelity and [trustworthiness]?" Sweeney shot back.

"Yes, but not about abortion. He's always been against abortion," Dupere replied.

"OK, so he's against abortion, but he's not against cheating and stealing," Sweeney said.

Plenty of debate, but perhaps not much suspense in New Hampshire, where polls show Romney with a wide lead.

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