In U.S. politics, six Republicans vying to be their party’s presidential nominee face a crucial test Tuesday in the New Hampshire presidential primary. Traditionally, a good showing in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary is seen as major step toward winning the presidential nomination of either major U.S. political party.
Mitt Romney can feel the love (support of voters). Before he can reach the White House, Romney must first pass muster with these voters in New Hampshire. And the voters here like to see their candidates up close and personal.
That suits Romney just fine. He cheerfully goes about the task of greeting voters, signing autographs and posing for pictures, all in a day’s campaign work here in New Hampshire.
Once every four years, normally tranquil New Hampshire and its quaint New England landscape is invaded by presidential contenders and an army of news media, like the horde that descended on this event for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
Though chaotic, Santorum’s impromptu parking lot appearance did attract undecided voters eager to hear from someone new.
“My wife has not told me, but she thinks she is 95 percent sure. I am still debating,” voter Craig Gallant said.
Gallant brought his wife and son to the Santorum rally and is well aware that New Hampshire voters get special attention from the candidates.
“We always have a wider field to choose from. We get to meet these people face to face and shake their hand and look them in the eye," he stated. "Sometimes that matters, sometimes it does not, but it is always nice to have that option."
Santorum is a Republican, but that did not stop Democrat Mary Claire Heffernan from stopping by to give a listen.
“It is unique and we really take our job seriously. We take pride in the fact that we have this opportunity and people pay attention, people get to know the candidates and people come out to vote,” Heffernan noted.
Veteran journalist Tom DeFrank has covered U.S. elections since 1968. DeFrank says New Hampshire voters expect the personal touch from their candidates.
“People in Iowa and New Hampshire and places like that expect to be courted, expect to be asked for their vote, expect to see you in dozens and hundreds of places,” he said.
Judy and Michael Lopacki came all the way from Pennsylvania to see Romney and democracy in action.
“I love being part of this whole thing. It makes you really love being an American and feel good about what is happening,” Judy Lopacki said.
Her husband Michael found the experience overwhelming.
“Although some people may look at is as a carnival, which it is to some extent, it is very serious business," he stated. "It is democracy. That is it. Sorry.”
Once the candidates leave and take the reporters with them, New Hampshire will revert to its quiet self, a beckoning landscape of rolling hills, town greens and colonial churches that once every four years becomes a critical testing ground for those seeking the highest office in the land.