Will the Granite State swing for President Obama or Mitt Romney in November? Greater Boston’s Adam Reilly talks with small business owners in the bellwether town of Hampton, N.H.
Warning signs for Romney in a New Hampshire swing town
Ever since President Barack Obama uttered those four fateful words — “You didn’t build that” — Mitt Romney has been accusing the president of hostility to America’s small business owners. Romney’s attacks have focused on a dozen swing states, including New Hampshire, which could play a pivotal role if the presidential election is as close as many expect it to be. But based on a recent trip to the Granite State, it’s not clear that entrepreneurs there see Romney as the better choice.
Talking like Romney, voting for Obama
Lenny Paul runs the Coffee Break Café in Hampton, N.H., with his wife and son. It’s the type of quirky small businesses that gives Hampton its funky flavor. Paul says business is booming — and that his family’s hard work is responsible.
“We built our businesses,” Paul says. “The small business that are here” — on Hampton Beach — “they’re built by mom-and-pop shops, little families trying to build a business. The government didn’t have anything to do with it.”
That sounds a lot like the arguments Romney and his surrogates have been making for the past two weeks. Still, when Paul casts his vote in November, he won’t be voting Republican.
“I’m an Obama supporter,” Paul says. “I like the job he’s doing. I kind of think that when he got elected, he got thrown into a pile, [and is] trying to make his way out of it without too much cooperation from Congress, in my opinion.”
“From a different zone”
Despite Romney’s overtures, Paul says, the Republican nominee-in-waiting leaves him cold.
“He’s not a small businessperson,” Paul argues. “He never has been, as far as what I can see. Thinking he’s in touch with the working man — I don’t think he is. He’s from a different zone or something, but he’s not on the same page we are.”
Obama won Hampton in 2008 by a slim margin, and the town could go either way this November — especially given voter frustration with the down economy. But for Romney to win, he’ll need to turn that frustration into votes. In other words, he’ll have to convince people like Edie Argo, who owns the Present Perfect gift shop in downtown Hampton.
To say Argo isn’t a fan of Obama would be an understatement. In fact, Argo believes his policies are un-American. Here’s her take on the Affordable Care Act: “If an individual is a capitalist, they don’t design things like the new health care policy. That has nothing to do with capitalism at all.”
Still, it’s not clear that Romney has her vote.
When asked if she considers herself a Romney supporter, Argo purses her lips and pauses. She pauses some more. And then, finally, she replies: “I wish we had a better choice. But I will not vote for President Obama, and I will not vote for a third party candidate.”
Where have you gone, Ronald Reagan?
That leaves two options: voting for Romney, or staying home. Right now, it seems Argo could go either way.
“I’m looking for someone who has the persona of a Ronald Reagan,” she says. “He was probably my favorite president of all time.
“I believe that Mitt Romney has some great ideas,” Argo adds. “I believe he has outstanding values. But he’s not the kind of motivational speaker that is going to draw people in.”
For Romney, that lack of enthusiasm may be cause for concern.