Note: This is a two-part story. Scroll down to hear and read what Republicans had to say.
While Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley have made many trips to New Hampshire and several other candidates have said they could run, right now Hillary Clinton is the only sure thing.
New Hampshire’s Democratic committeewoman, Kathy Sullivan, co-chaired Clinton’s winning 2008 primary campaign and remains a loyalist.
“She focuses on the economy, she focuses on jobs, she focuses on issues like affordable healthcare, she focuses on issues like education and these are the issues that matter to everyday Americans.”
But not every Democrat is so comfortable with Clinton such as Luann Blair of Plaistow who says she agrees with Clinton’s positions, but says she is not sure Hillary is the right person for the job.
“It’s been suggested that she thinks she is above the law, and I really don’t think someone that feels that privileged and entitled should be president, but I don’t know of another good Democrat.”
Anne Chehade of Hopkinton also hopes more Democrats will jump into the race. “I certainly, absolutely would vote 100 percent for Hillary against any of the Republican people going, but I think that if I could ideally have someone like Elizabeth Warren running, I would more enthusiastically be casting that vote of support.”
Yet plenty of Democrats like former Concord Mayor Mike Donovan simply think Clinton is the best candidate in their party. “She is very experienced as a Senator, as Secretary of State, as a former First Lady, she does have a lot of experience. She would probably bring more experience to the presidency than any of the recent presidents,” he said.
Dean Barker, who once edited the liberal blog, Blue Hampshire, said regardless of Clinton’s strength, primaries should be important.
“It would be irresponsible for any one in an early state like New Hampshire where we have this responsibility to meet the candidates, talk to the candidates, and learn about their issues to just sort of hop on the boat and say we have a really dominant candidate in Hillary Clinton, she has really high approval so let’s go," Barker said. "I think it very important no matter who the candidate is to really get them on record about important things,” he said.
Chair of the Portsmouth Democratic Committee, Larry Drake, agrees and says regardless of what polls say now, history would suggest Clinton will end up having to fight for the nomination.
“Let’s keep things in perspective, it’s April and the New Hampshire primaries isn’t until February, so there is plenty of time for people to get in and for there to be a competitive primary.”
But first someone else does need to get in.
With almost 20 Republicans committed to or at least considering running for president, it’s a busy time to be a GOP activist or voter in New Hampshire.
But with 10 months left until the primary, many voters are undecided about who they will back. One thing Republican activists across the spectrum do seem to agree on this year is the need for a strong leader, one who, as Bill Sutton of Nashua says, “can bring us back,” or as Dennis Cronin of Bedford puts it, “has basic core principles that will help bring the country back.”
Precisely what back is, though, does vary. For Kevin Gage of Nashua, who works in hospital security, it would be a Republican president whose policies can restore what he sees as a loss in middle class opportunity.
“The economy -- because we need to make sure we have jobs, make sure that the economy and education system is ready for our kids coming up -- that they have the right education that they can get some decent jobs. You want your kids to be, as they say, better than you at some point, you want to leave something better, but the country is having trouble doing that,” said Gage who has two sons heading to college in a few years.
Nashua School Board member Sandra Ziehm, meanwhile, sees education as a top concern. But the longtime GOP activist sees steep challenges across the board.
“We need someone who has it all. I don’t mean to seem naïve but our nation has big needs and if there ever was a time that we need a strong leader it is now.”
Some Republicans have already settled on candidates such as former N.H. GOP chairman Jack Kimball says he’s set on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“We are thirsting for principal leadership. We want people who say what they mean and mean what they say, that don’t say one thing in front of you to get your vote and then go to Washington and then completely flip 180 degrees.”
For Nashua State Rep. David Murotake, the choice is Rand Paul of Kentucky. “We need someone like that, somebody who is not afraid to stand up and say, the ways we have been doing things is just wrong and here are the ways we need to go ahead and solve some of those crucial problems.”
Most republicans, though, will tell you it’s far too soon to be certain about who to vote for 10 months from now. Kay Stowell of Londonderry was in the crowd earlier this week for N.J. Governor Chris Christie’s first N.H. town hall meeting. She says she intends to cast her ballot for someone who will tell the truth, but added sorting that out will take a bit of face to face contact, saying she "plans to go see everybody."
And with so many GOP hopefuls making the rounds, Republican voters have no shortage of options – at least right now. But many, such as Ed Stebbins of Nashua, already have an eye on November of 2016. “Its hard to pick and choose," he said, "somebody who can beat Hillary,” he replies laughing.