With less than two months to go before the New Hampshire presidential primary, Democratic hopefuls have been campaigning hard. According to recent polls, New York Senator Hillary Clinton still holds a commanding lead. Jeff Swicord recently talked with New Hampshire Democrats to see what issues are most important to them.
Cheshire County, New Hampshire Democrats say they elect more of their own than any other county in the state. Many party activists attending the annual dinner here on a recent night in Keene, say the county is the engine of the state's Democratic Party and a "must" campaign stop.
As the primary approaches, prominent Democratic Party members from across New Hampshire are here to discuss the issues. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, says voters are frustrated with the political partisanship of Washington. "They see Washington as a place where there is just partisan bickering, where nothing is accomplished and they are very skeptical of Washington's competence. I think we have got to get out of there," he says.
Robert Mallat, a retired college administrator agrees that Washington is ineffective. With the Iraq war his number one concern, Mallat wants the U.S. to make amends in the region. "And we are not doing anything. We are just infuriating all of the people regardless of what nationality they are. Whether they are Sunnis or Kurds or whatever."
Tonight's keynote speaker is presidential candidate Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, who is trailing the top four Democratic candidates in the polls. He says electability and the ability to bring people together are concerns he hears form voters but not reported by the news media. "People really do want to see a candidate that can win the election and then bring the country together as well. I cannot describe to you the level of frustration people feel," he said.
Across the state at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards spoke to an audience about social justice and what he calls the destructive influence of special interests in Washington. "Money and power have now been concentrated in a very few wealthy people and big corporations. And they are using that money and influence to corrupt the government against the interest of most Americans," he told the crowd.
Younger voters in the audience, such as Sarah Floyd, say the two issues that they are most concerned about are healthcare and the environment. "I saw 'An Inconvenient Truth' like a lot of people did. And it is scary to think that such a massive change could be coming if we don't do something now. I think that that is really starting to catch on and I want to see a candidate who is really willing to make some big changes in terms of policy."
Public opinion polls show Edwards is currently running third in New Hampshire behind New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Some analysts say the Democratic race is not likely to tighten before the January primary.