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September 30. 2012 1:12AM

NH voters mull 'negative' campaigns


Verne Ullrich, 64, a retired West High School English teacher, plans to vote for President Obama. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)


Sonny Sargent, 70, a retired software manager, said he wishes there was a viable third-party choice for President. He said he probably will vote for President Obama. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)


Kathy Gunther, 61, a housewife, right, said she will vote for Republican Mitt Romney for President. Her daughter, Jennifer Pereira, 33, a stay-at-home mom and former nurse, said she will look at Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson but most likely vote for Romney. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Sonny Sargent ignores the phone calls, deletes the emails and considers the political ads on TV from the presidential campaigns and advocacy groups too negative.

“They're more interested in sound bites than in anything concrete,” the retired software manager said, sitting in his West Side kitchen last week. “We want to hear what they want to do.”

Sargent said he backed then-Sen. Hillary Clinton over then-Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential primary and probably will vote for Obama in November rather than GOP nominee Mitt Romney in a choice he described as the lesser of “the two evils.”

“I wish we had a good third party,” he said Thursday. But not choosing between the Republican or Democratic nominees right now is, he said, “almost like a wasted vote.”

Won't commit

In the same northwest corner of the city, Jennifer Pereira, 33, backed U.S. Rep. Ron Paul in this year's Republican presidential primary and isn't ready to commit to Romney.

The stay-at-home mom planned to look at former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a GOP primary candidate who is running in the general election as the nominee of the Libertarian Party.

“My only concern is not to get Obama in, so I'm nervous to vote for a third party,” she said, enjoying a pleasant afternoon walk with her mother and her two children Wednesday. In the end, she said she will vote “most likely Romney.”

More than five weeks and three televised presidential debates separate voters from election day.

And in Manchester's Ward 12 — a politically balanced ward (based on party registration) that nearly matched the statewide presidential results in November 2008 — not all residents are settled on their choice for the White House.

“I haven't thought about it,” Jose Dejesus, 20, said before entering Jon O's Market on Thursday evening.

The landscaper and father doesn't plan to listen to the debates, but will watch campaign television commercials. After emerging from the store, he recalled seeing a pro-Obama TV ad. “I saw one commercial, Romney wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood,” an ad that made him mad and might make him vote for Obama, Dejesus said.

Others don't even plan on deciding.

“I don't think I'm going to vote,” said Justin Kent, 23, a construction worker. “It just gets kind of old, trashing people on TV and pointing out the negatives of the other candidates. It's tiring to keep up with what's real and what's next.”

Last-minute decision

In 2008, about 1 in 4 Granite State voters decided on their presidential choice in October or November, according to CNN exit polls. Two polls released last week each listed the number of undecided likely voters as 4 percent.

Veronica Romero, 36, who makes gaskets at Freudenberg-NOK in Manchester, already has made her choice.

Romero said she feels better with her personal finances than four years ago, thanks to Obama providing financial help to the automakers.

“When he gave the loans to the auto industry, everything got better,” said Romero, who endured a two-month layoff. “I feel more secure. It's better than before, way, way better,” Kathy Gunther, 61, a homemaker, said she will vote for Romney.

“There's too much government,” she said. “They want to get into your personal lives. They want to get into everything.”

Likely debate watcher

Gunther said she probably will watch the presidential debates. “How many lies Obama can tell and get away with?” she said.

Saying the pro-life issue is her top concern, she questioned “how the President is attacking religion, making the Catholics have to go against their faith in what they have to have for insurance.”

Verne Ullrich, 64, a retired English teacher from West High School, said he also has tired of the negative commercials.

“The thing that's really bothering me is the divisiveness that's been created, more than I've noticed in the past,” Ullrich said. “It's almost like a class warfare.”

Ullrich, who is backing the President, said no matter who came into the White House in January 2009, “there was going to be a lot of pain,” and Obama hasn't received enough credit.

Walking her golden retriever, Ollie, Brandi Makauskas, 32, a grad student at the University of New Hampshire and restaurant worker, said she appreciates Obama's stance on student loans and health insurance.

“I like the fact he's trying to get universal health insurance for people,” said Makauskas, who doesn't have health insurance.

Political watchers estimates more than $1 billion may be spent on TV commercials to influence voters in the 2012 presidential race.

Sargent wondered whether the money might be better spent.

“How many jobs could you have created with that billion dollars?” he asked.


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