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With Most Presidential Candidates In Iowa, Gabbard Courts N.H. Independents

Annie Ropeik

Most presidential candidates have been in Iowa this week, just days out from that state's caucuses.

But a few are still focused on New Hampshire – including Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. The Democrat has been holding events almost daily for the past couple of weeks.

Gabbard spoke to more than 100 people Thursday night in a well-lit Portsmouth night club. She emphasized her views on the military, and her commitment to unity.

“This isn’t about, ‘well, my party’s good and your party’s bad,’ or vice versa,” Gabbard told the crowd. “It goes much deeper than that – to where we’ve got to be able to really bring about the vision that our founders had for us: leading a government that is of, by and for the people.”

That idea resonated with the crowd. Most identified as independents, and many said they voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR
More than a hundred voters came to hear Gabbard speak in Portsmouth, with nearly every other candidate focused on Iowa.

Helen Lidstone of Hampton is one of those. She said Gabbard is the only Democrat left this cycle she hasn't ruled out supporting. She said her children, who are in their 20s, have also urged her to consider voting for Gabbard.

“I think she’s a breath of fresh air. I think she’s middle of the road,” Lidstone said. “It’s nice to see a Democrat come out who is somebody who is not so far left.”

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Alexandria Knox is running for state representative in Portsmouth as a Republican. She says she supports the president, but that Gabbard is her role model on the other side of the aisle – for her youth, her military service and her focus on bipartisanship.

“She’s committed to civility,” Knox said. “She’s clean and professional, and she listens to everyone no matter what side of the aisle.”

Jim Currie of Massachusetts said for him, it’s down to Gabbard or Trump.

“It’s going to be either-or: if she doesn’t get the Democratic nominee, I will be voting for Donald Trump,” Currie said. “But I’m hoping, praying, that it could be her.”

Gabbard has New Hampshire almost all to herself through the weekend, with less than two weeks until the primary. Some supporters said they hope it will help her gain some last-minute traction.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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