Kathy Guerriero, 50, has the opposite politics. She calls herself a “diehard Democrat,” who met Obama a few weeks ago when he campaigned in New Hampshire. She was in a park in Rochester, where she lives, and some official asked her to go to the front and talk to the president. “He shook my hand, and I said, ‘Teachers love you,’ and he said, ‘We love teachers, too.’” The experience thrilled her.

Guerriero has been a special education teacher for 28 years and considers herself lucky to have found a teaching job this summer, since she is a newcomer to the state. Teaching jobs are hard to find, she said, because New Hampshire teachers tend to stay put for a long time.

“I just feel Mr. Romney is not in touch with middle class people—the working people of America,” she told me. “I wouldn’t vote for Romney if he were the last man on earth. He can’t do anything for me as a woman or as an educator or a middle class American.

“I’m nervous he will tax the middle class,” she added. Guerriero said that women’s healthcare “concerns me a lot. I’m concerned about all women in America. I don’t like that old white men in Washington DC should be telling women what they should do.”

As for Medicare, Guerriero told me her 92-year-old mother was on the program and it was valuable to her. “I think Romney will make cuts to Medicare. I just believe that. He frightens me.”

Andrew Culbert

Culbert, a 67-year-old corporate lawyer from Boston, was spending the day in Portsmouth with his wife. He was sitting outside Starbucks waiting for his wife to return from shopping. He liked Portsmouth, he said, because of its nice mix of people. Culbert was happy to talk, though more about his home state than about New Hampshire.

He’s a Kennedy Democrat supporting Obama and “very much” a supporter of Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. Why? “She’s intelligent. I like her agenda—proactive, middle class values, and peoples’ rights.” Culbert thought that Scott Brown “has done a pretty good job but he’s nowhere near her level of intelligence.”

What worries him about Brown returning to the Senate, he said, is that he will become a reliable Republican vote that could stymie the Democratic agenda.
“Brown has been on a temporary assignment,” Culbert said. “We need Democrats in the Senate to support the Democrat point of view. I think if he got in he would be a full-fledged Republican.”

Why Obama, I asked? “Obama has done a very good job under very difficult and trying circumstances, with polarization and bias,” Culbert explained. He thought that the president had tried to go the extra mile and meet people in a centrist position.

Still, “I’ve been disappointed with some of the things Obama has not accomplished and his inability to move his agenda along,” Culbert said. Medicare is not a factor in his decision to support the president. “The Medicare issue is a fog no one has been able to penetrate. It’s bound up with healthcare cost increases, and until they are resolved Medicare won’t be resolved.” He wasn’t worried about Paul Ryan’s voucher plan, because he doubts it will happen. “It would be difficult to put that level of program in place,” he said.

We discussed press coverage of the election. “I have almost stopped listening to the political ads and the stories on PBS. I turn it off and tune it out. I’m not going to be influenced by them. I think most people feel that way.” As I put my notebook away to leave, Culbert had a comment about Mitt Romney. “He’s out of touch with the difficulties and the responsibilities so many Americans have to face,” Culbert said.

The dad

One man I met—he was minding his toddler son—declined to give his name. He is 36 and works in higher education. We spoke quickly and, like Culbert, he has made up his mind: “I’m an Independent,” he said. “And I will likely vote Democratic.”

He voted for Obama in the last election. What were the deciding issues for him? “The Democrats are better on social issues, like gay marriage,” he said. “That should be a non-issue.”

Related stories:

Word on the street in Massachusetts: Divided

The word on the street in Pennsylvania: Disillusioned

The word on the street in Missouri: Apprehensive

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.