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What New Hampshire voters think about the contenders in today's primary

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Voting is underway in New Hampshire. There is a Republican presidential primary matchup between former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Democrats are also taking part in a write-in campaign for President Biden. NPR's Ashley Lopez spent some time at the polls today in Manchester, N.H., and joins us now. Hi, Ashley.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Hey there.

SUMMERS: All right, Ashley. Let's start off with the Democrats. Tell us what you heard from voters there about this write-in campaign on behalf of President Biden.

LOPEZ: Yeah. Well, at the polling location I was at, many of the folks I talked to were Democrats. And, you know, some of them were not too happy about the fact that the Democratic Party decided not to put Joe Biden on the ballot and instead are letting South Carolina be the first state to formally weigh in on the Democratic primary. But I will say other folks didn't seem too fazed by this. They said Biden was likely to win anyway, and they just wanted to show their support for Joe Biden in any way they can, right? Others said they were just in the habit of voting, so even if they weren't the biggest fans of Joe Biden, they just felt it was their duty to, you know, come out and vote.

SUMMERS: Right. All right, let's shift gears here to what is now...

LOPEZ: Yeah.

SUMMERS: ...A one-on-one race between Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. I know that Haley hopes to perform well in New Hampshire, perhaps pull off a surprise win there. What did you hear from her supporters?

LOPEZ: Yeah. I talked to quite a few Republican voters. Of course, I should say there were quite a few Trump voters there, too. But there were a significant amount of GOP voters who said they were there to vote for Nikki Haley. I spoke to Susan Byron (ph). She's a registered Republican, and she says she was really excited to vote for Haley today.

SUSAN BYRON: The first time I ever heard her, I loved her. I had never heard of her. And I talked to my son about it and my daughter, and they really kind of liked her, too. I think she's really good.

LOPEZ: And while there were a lot of Republicans who turned out to vote for Haley, there were also a lot of independent or politically unaffiliated voters who turned out to vote for her, too.

SUMMERS: And that's significant because independent voters really could be key to the outcome in New Hampshire in this Republican primary. Tell us what you heard from independent voters today.

LOPEZ: Yeah. So just a reminder for our listeners - New Hampshire voting laws allow independent voters to cast a ballot in either a Democratic or Republican primary. They get to choose. So it was really interesting to hear these voters', like, internal calculus for how they're voting. For instance, I talked to Ty Rivera (ph). He's 20 years old, an independent voter who is voting in his first presidential election, and he's definitely more left-leaning. But he decided to vote in the GOP primary so that he could vote for Nikki Haley.

TY RIVERA: I personally don't care for any of the Republican nominees. I prefer Democrat, but I think since I'm undeclared, I think being able to vote for either party is important.

LOPEZ: I also spoke to Dorothy Curtis (ph), who did the same thing. She's in her 80s and was a Republican for many years but just doesn't like Trump, so she voted for Nikki Haley.

DOROTHY CURTIS: Only problem I have with her - and I do have a problem with her - is that she's going to hide in Trump if she gets in, and that's wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yes.

CURTIS: I'm sorry. So once again, this is - year after year after year, you're voting against instead of for. I want to go to an election where I can vote for somebody. This was supposed to be the one. I'm getting too old for this.

SUMMERS: Wow. And, Ashley, did voters tell you what they make of the sort of strategic voting that these voters were describing that's going on there?

LOPEZ: Well, some people see this as a benefit of being an independent voter in New Hampshire, right? So they have options. But others felt really uncomfortable doing that. I spoke to one voter, James Vieau (ph), who is left-leaning and an independent voter, and he says he really couldn't bring himself to vote for Haley. He told me he didn't like the way Haley has talked about immigrants, so he instead just voted in the Democratic primary and wrote in Pete Buttigieg.

SUMMERS: NPR's Ashley Lopez reporting from New Hampshire. Ashley, thank you.

LOPEZ: Yeah. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ashley Lopez
Ashley Lopez is a political correspondent for NPR based in Austin, Texas. She joined NPR in May 2022. Prior to NPR, Lopez spent more than six years as a health care and politics reporter for KUT, Austin's public radio station. Before that, she was a political reporter for NPR Member stations in Florida and Kentucky. Lopez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Miami, Florida.