An Independent State of Mind

By Lee Speigel

Jan 6, 2008 6:26pm

SALEM, N.H. — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., rolled up to the Woodbridge Middle School this afternoon with the Granite State’s independent voters on his mind.

(WATCH THE VIDEO OF THIS WORLD NEWS STORY HERE.)

Independent voters are a huge force in New Hampshire. Republicans comprise 30 percent of the voters, Democrats 26 percent … and those "undeclared" voters constitute 44 percent of the electorate.

Is there a reason why undeclared voters can’t seem to choose which party to go with?

Said Robert Dennis of Hampstead, “I can pick a party, but I don’t want to. I want the option to go back and forth.”

Said Robert Abbott of Derry, N.H., another undeclared voter, “I think it gives us more choice. We get listened to by everybody, and we get to see everybody.”

McCain’s campaign says that McCain and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney are basically tied among Republican voters in New Hampshire, and that McCain is relying upon the big pool of independent voters to deliver his margin of victory.

The problem for McCain is … Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who seems to have captured the imagination of many independent voters in this election cycle.

“I am told there’s a lot of voters wavering between me and Sen. Obama,” McCain said today, per ABC News’ Ron Claiborne, who covers McCain for ABC News. “I’m kind of pleased the independents have narrowed it down to a choice of two.”

McCain beat George Bush here with the support of independents, such as Gary Boutin, of Salem, N.H., who stuck an "8" sticker on his old 2000 campaign sign from 8 years ago.

“I would lead towards Obama if McCain were not in the race," Boutin told me today.

But some previous supporters have turned on McCain, such as Robert Abbott and his wife Priscilla, who now like Obama.

“It’s time for a change, things are different,” said Priscilla.

“He has changed too much,” echoed her husband Robert.

McCain’s events today were crowded, but the lines for Obama events are like those for a Hannah Montana concert — a sign he may have a very good Tuesday, with the help of independents.

– jpt

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