Mitt Romney and President Obama in their first debate. (Saul Loeb (Romney); Nicholas…)
DOVER, N.H. -- A quarter-million New Hampshire voters cast ballots in the nation’s first presidential primary in January. But not Amanda Davis and Tanya Forest.
In fact, Davis, a recent college graduate from Hooksett, and Forest, a mother of three from Dover, have paid little attention to the presidential race this year -- even though the state’s airwaves have been bombarded with television ads and candidates courting their votes -- first for the primary, and now for the general election.
So as they watched Wednesday’s presidential debate together, they got their first unfiltered view of the two nominees. And one made a clear positive impression on both: Mitt Romney.
“If I were to base my vote solely on this, Romney definitely” won, said Davis, who cast her first-ever vote four years ago for Barack Obama, but entered the night uncertain about her choice this fall.
For Forest, who supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary and ultimately voted for John McCain in November, it was mainly a matter of style.
Obama "didn’t portray anything I wanted to see out of him,” she said. Romney “seems more confident. He seems more poised. He really seemed like he meant what he was saying.”
That impression Romney made could be a lasting one. Forest said she works 50 hours a week as a retail manager, and has little time to watch the news when she’s at home. All she had heard about Romney from other family and friends “has been negative,” she said before the debate began. She was eager to hear the candidates’ plans to boost job growth.
“We have programs to help people who are unemployed. But what about the middle class?” she said.
The first moment to generate a reaction from her was when Obama talked about how he had already cut taxes for the middle class, as part of the stimulus package he signed within months of taking office.
“Really? Because I didn’t see any tax cuts,” she immediately responded.
Davis said her enthusiasm for Obama four years ago was tempered as she ended her four years at the University of New Hampshire. Unable to find a job before graduation, she worked part time with Forest for four months. She starts a new job on Monday, but not in the field she had intended.
“I feel like a college degree is the equivalent of what high school used to be,” she said. “Four months is a long time to look for a job.”
She felt inclined to vote for Romney after the 90-minute debate, admittedly based more on the candidates’ demeanor than their positions. But she said she wants to see more.
“I’ve seen Obama do better. He can do better,” Davis said. “It feels like it was easier for Romney to win people’s votes and harder for Obama to keep theirs.”
Forest, too, said at the start of the night that she wasn't sure if she would watch more than the one debate. But now she wants to see more, both of televised events and maybe even a rally in person.
“I would go just to see if it would confirm what I thought,” she said.
She’ll probably have the chance. New Hampshire for now seems to have taken a back seat to other battlegrounds like Ohio and Florida. But the state’s four electoral votes – fewest of the eight or nine most-contested states – could make all the difference in a close race.