Candidates woo N.H. undeclared voters

Dec. 15, 2011 at 8:18 AM
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BEDFORD, N.H., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- As the primary and caucus season looms, U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls not only are trying to show their conservative cred but also woo undecided voters.

Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, is trying to shake up the leaderboard in New Hampshire, broadening his message to reach the state's undeclared voters who make up about 40 percent of the electorate and are eligible to vote in the Jan. 10 GOP primary, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"I don't care whether you're Republican, Democrats or independents," Huntsman recently told an audience in Bedford, N.H. "I need your vote."

Front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have spent much of their time pitching their conservative bone fides in Iowa, which has its caucuses Jan. 3, and South Carolina, which conducts its primary Jan. 21.

Undeclared voters in New Hampshire have played a key role in previous primaries by bringing a more moderate voice to the GOP electorate and making New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary an early check for a candidate's viability.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney has had a substantial lead among Republican and independent voters in New Hampshire for much of this year, the Times said. However, Romney now finds himself battling Gingrich's recent surge as well as a challenge in New Hampshire by Huntsman and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

A WMUR Granite State poll released in late November indicated Paul had support of 16 percent of New Hampshire voters not affiliated with either party. Huntsman had the backing of 13 percent. Nearly two-thirds of New Hampshire's undeclared voters said they had yet to settle on a Republican candidate, the poll indicated.

While Paul's support is thought to be fairly stable in New Hampshire, "there's a potential for Huntsman to eat away at Romney's margins among undeclared voters, especially those voters who could be turned off if things get negative," Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, told the Times.

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