CANDIA, N.H. (CN) — Democratic primary voters in the snowy, storybook town of Candia, New Hampshire, seemed all over the map Tuesday morning in terms of who they were voting for and why.
But if a common theme stood out, it was a lack of enthusiasm for former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Biden is too old,” said Karen Snow. “He won’t attract young people. He just doesn’t seem to have much of a shot.”
“He’s older. I want to support someone young,” said Maura Dann.
“I love Joe Biden, I really do,” said Nicole LaFlamme. “But it’s not his time. He would do a lot more good if he’d go off and run the Biden Foundation.”
Even senior citizens, whom pollsters label a Biden core constituency, were skeptical.
“He’s probably too old – and I’m an old guy myself,” said Steve Smith.
“I’m probably older than he is,” said Judith Szot. “But it’s time to recognize that we need new leadership in this country.”
By contrast, the youngest candidate in the race, Pete Buttigieg, drew a lot of support.
An undecided voter until Monday night, Mike Zarenski said he chose Buttigieg because “he’s a pretty damn smart guy.” Zarenski said the previous evening, several Buttigieg supporters came to his house and pointed out that the candidate speaks seven languages. “OK, I’m sold,” he responded.
Kathy Binns shared that sentiment. She chose the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor because, “I want the smartest guy in the room working for me.”
Sandra Truebe called Buttigieg “uplifting and positive” and thought he could attract Republicans who don’t like Trump. And Smith, who thought Biden was too old, voted for Buttigieg because of his youth and intelligence and the fact that he is a veteran.
On the other hand, Judith Dionne, who had been planning to vote for Buttigieg, “surprised myself” and chose Senator Bernie Sanders instead. Although many Democratic officials have worried that Sanders is not electable, Dionne concluded the opposite and said that Sanders was “more likely to rattle Trump in the debates.”
Margaret Collins picked Senator Elizabeth Warren “because we need a problem solver.”
“That was my last thought before I marked my ballot,” she said.
Melissa Wingfield chose Warren over Buttigieg because of Warren’s experience, although she said she might vote for Buttigieg “in some future election.” Kerry LaFlamme said that Warren “has integrity and knows the law.” And Ginny Nichols said she picked Warren over Sanders “because I’d like to see a woman.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar also drew a number of voters. Alison Butters called her “the practical one who can get things done.” Szot described her as “cool, confident, and inclusive.” And Snow, who also rejected Biden as “too old,” said Klobuchar was electable because she was moderate and from the Midwest.
The official New Hampshire ballot listed a staggering 33 candidates, including also-rans such as Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and many obscure people who paid the filing fee to be included.
But one name not on the ballot was that of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. So Katie Blye wrote in his name. She likes his stances on crime, guns and climate. “And he’s got the money to beat Trump,” she said.
Although many prominent Democratic officials have fretted recently about whether the crop of 2020 candidates are strong enough to go up against the president, that sentiment was noticeably absent in Candia. Many residents expressed happiness with what they saw as an unusually varied and talented field.
Candia voters cast their ballots on artificial soccer turf at a youth athletic complex just down the road from a white-steepled church and an 18th-century bed and breakfast. In the 10th least populous state, census takers counted just 3,909 Candia residents in 2010. New Hampshire voters are famously independent, and many chose to support candidates who are far from the top of the national polls.
Phil Marcotte voted for Andrew Yang “because he’s smart and has out-of-the-box ideas,” whereas Biden “just never got it going.” Marcotte says he followed Yang in all the debates “except for the last one because it snowed and our power went out.”
Mike Cormier voted for Tom Steyer because “we need a uniter,” and he thought Steyer, as a businessman, would match up well against Trump. As for the other billionaire businessman in the race, Bloomberg, Cormier complained that “he skipped us.”
“He’s spent a lot of money but he hasn’t gotten out and done the work the way Steyer has,” Cormier added.
Angela Dow voted for U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii because she believes Gabbard can bring Democrats and Republicans together. “I think you have to vote for who you believe in,” she said. “If everyone only votes for who’s popular, then what you get are the candidates who are the most popular, not the best. The way to change that is to start voting your conscience.”
Bill Stergios, who wrote in for Trump on Tuesday, said he had his picture taken with Gabbard at a town hall, and that a lot of other Republicans did the same. “I wish Trump would fire Pompeo and hire her,” said Stergios, who described himself as a former Vietnam War protester and “anti-establishment.”
Despite the lack of a serious contest on the Republican side, a lot of voters came out to support Trump, with many pointing out that voting is a civic obligation even if the results are not in doubt. “I try to never miss a vote,” said Lee Gregoire. “That way you have a right to complain.”
Not all Trump voters were unreserved in their support, although most were. “I know he’s unorthodox and crude, but I support his policies,” one explained. Another put it more simply: “He’s psycho, but I like him.”
Nati McGuire, an immigrant from the Philippines, also talked about the importance of voting in a free society. She chose Sanders because she finds him “honest,” although she also likes Buttigieg and hopes Sanders will pick him as his running mate.
“Sanders is old, but he’s active,” she said, in contrast to Biden.
“I feel sorry for Joe Biden,” she continued. “He was so sure he was going to be the one … and he’s not.”