New Hampshire is alleged to be a state where Sen. John McCain is among the favorites in the upcoming Republican presidential primaries. Yet his hopes of winning could be dashed not by GOP voters, but by independent voters who jump to the Democratic primary to support Sen. Barack Obama.
In New Hampshire, independents can choose to vote in either party, and there are reports that many who would ordinarily not vote in the Democratic primary may do so to back Obama.
"This big group in the middle . . . has a chance to really transform the election," Tom Rath, a veteran New Hampshire Republican strategist who is advising Mitt Romney told the Los Angeles Times. "It's more like a general election here."
Obama himself is aiming his campaign at independents. "My goal is to campaign in a way that taps into independents, that taps into common sense and pragmatism, that doesn't demonize anybody out there," he told the Times. "In that way I hope I can create a working majority for change."
According to the Times, independents often have had an outsized effect in New Hampshire's presidential primaries, recalling that in 1992, it was the independent votes that boosted Republican Patrick J. Buchanan to a strong second place that embarrassed President George H.W. Bush. Moreover, in 1996, they helped Buchanan edge Sen. Bob Dole, the front-runner who went on to claim the GOP nomination.
Notes the Times: "If Obama bests national front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, he probably will owe his New Hampshire victory to independents, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll suggested last week. That survey found Clinton led Obama, 35 percent to 28 percent among the state's registered Democrats. The Times added that among independents who plan to vote in the Democratic primary, Obama led, 37 percent to 24 percent -- turning the contest into a virtual tie.
That many independents are choosing Obama was evident in the Times/Bloomberg poll, which found that among New Hampshire independents who have chosen the party primary in which they will cast a ballot, 61 percent said they planned to vote in the Democratic race, 39 percent in the GOP contest. According to the Times, among those who have decided whom they will support, more than twice as many said they planned to back Obama, compared to McCain.
The Times/Bloomberg poll showed that the state's independents tended to agree with Democrats more than with Republicans. Asked to name the issues they considered top priorities, independents most frequently cited Iraq, health care and the economy -- the same ones that dominated among Democrats. The state's Republicans, by contrast, cited illegal immigration and national security first, followed by the economy and Iraq.
On Iraq, 74 percent of independents said they favored withdrawing U.S. troops within a year -- a view shared by 98 percent of Democrats, but just 33 percent of Republicans.
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