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10 key questions for New Hampshire voters

In recent decades, New Hampshire voters have held outsized power in presidential politics by virtue of their first-in-the-nation primary. They savor that power, and the chance it gives them to examine candidates for the White House up close. Independents can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary as they choose.

Many withhold their commitments until they enter the voting booth. That happens Tuesday.

I sat down with some of those voters in The Common Man, a restaurant and bar in Concord. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of those conversations.

Ron Roz with John Harwood
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Ron Roz with John Harwood

HARWOOD: You've got a lot of conservative choices in this race. Why Donald Trump?

RON ROZ, retired construction worker: He's independent: When he started, people thought he was a joke. But you look at his history, and the business and the company that he founded, and what he has done — if he can bring half of that to the government, I think we're gonna go a long way.

We're too far in debt. He needs to stabilize that real quick. I believe he has the knowledge and the ability to get the economy started again by bringing some of these jobs back to the United States. I mean, he employs thousands.

He's not the old school. You know, he's not a lifetime politician. He doesn't need the government to survive. He's taking a hell of a pay cut to take the job if he does. Just his demeanor has got me going to the point where I think he can make a difference. He's not afraid to speak his piece.

Gotta break the mold. You can't have the same old thing. Some of the politicians are just, you know, preachin', 'Well, we did this and we did this and we did this' — and nothin' gets done, you know? The 'we dids' done.

We're being sold down the road. Our military is in terrible shape. We need to rebuild that. The economy is in worse shape. We need to rebuild that. And we need the person to take the lead and bring us back to where we were.


Mike Miller
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Mike Miller

HARWOOD: When you think about the problems we face as a country, what ticks you off the most?

MIKE MILLER, prison employee backing Trump: It seems like every day there's less people working, on the dole, collecting disability. Less workers every year that goes by. And then they tax the daylights out of people that do. That's a problem.

I think as Americans we have a right to decide who comes into this country and who doesn't. And I don't think people should be able to force themselves on us to become citizens. I also like Donald Trump on foreign policy. I don't think that we should be cautious about anybody that engages in terrorist activities against us. They pull a move like that, I think we pull a move back.

I'm a right-winger. I'm not a Republican. I'm not big on the religious guys. So that x's Ted Cruz.

Josh Williams with John Harwood
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Josh Williams with John Harwood

HARWOOD: Bernie Sanders says in every speech that things in the country are controlled by super-rich people. Do you agree with that?

JOSH WILLIAMS, restaurant worker backing Sanders: The people with the money have the ability to control things just because they have the money to do it. I'm more about the people. I mean, I'm a lower-income person. I live on the, like, lower end of things. I make a decent living, but still I feel that if the country were run a little more equally, that I would have a little better of a life.

His idea is that things need to change and things need to be new. There was already a Clinton in the White House. She is the past — experience in old government, and I feel like we definitely need a new government. We need new things.

Feelin' the Bern. I haven't registered yet, but like I said, in the last couple of weeks I've gotten more interested in Bernie and I've seen him and I plan on registering and voting for him.

"His idea is that things need to change and things need to be new. There was already a Clinton in the White House. She is the past — experience in old government, and I feel like we definitely need a new government. We need new things. Feelin' the Bern. I haven't registered yet, but like I said, in the last couple of weeks I've gotten more interested in Bernie and I've seen him and I plan on registering and voting for him." -Josh Williams, restaurant worker
Sandie Goldberg
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Sandie Goldberg

HARWOOD: Do you think some of what Trump does is an act?

SANDIE GOLDBERG, former business owner backing Trump: Sometimes he acts like a buffoon. He is not an orator. But on the other hand, he is down to earth. I truly believe he's so sincere about getting America back on track.

There is something about the man that instills security in you. You feel he is going to accomplish what he says he's going to accomplish. As my doctor says, I'm black and white, no gray. And that's the way he is.

I am so disillusioned right at the moment, just like other citizens of this country. I talk about it all the time with my husband. I get very, very angry watching the news. I feel that we have been isolated from the rest of the world, that we're trying to change other countries — to change their way of living. And yet we can't do anything on our own. In my little town of Bradford, I know there have been many foreclosures. I know there are many people that are unemployed. I know there are many people that can't pay their taxes.

Candice Perkins
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Candice Perkins

HARWOOD: Hillary's argument is, 'I've taken a lot of hits but I'm still standing.' You don't think there's a big trust issue with Hillary?

CANDICE PERKINS, hairdresser backing Clinton: I think that's just news and garbage and gossip. People, they hate Clinton, you know.

I like Hillary. I think it's nice to see a woman in power. That's sort of impressive. I like her experience. I like the name —meaning the experience. She's sort of a conservative Democrat, you know. She's not that liberal.

I'm still standing. I gained 70 pounds because I went through something horrible. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That cheesy expression is true. She's amazing.


Erin Gallant
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Erin Gallant

HARWOOD: Do you think that the issue with drugs and opioids is a big problem?

ERIN GALLANT, waitress who's undecided: Huge. It starts with the provider over-prescribing pain medications. It is an issue that's personal to me. My mom had surgery a couple weeks ago, and the surgeon prescribed her a certain amount of pills. Even (the surgeon) said: 'You know, I've been hearing all this stuff about this being a problem. It made me kind of think maybe I should be prescribing less.' And that scared me — as a surgeon who's prescribing these on a regular basis, she was that naïve about kind of what is really going on.

Is Chris Christie even still in it? I like that he's a supporter of recovery from addiction, and that he's done a lot in the state of New Jersey.

Francine Lozeau
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Francine Lozeau

HARWOOD: Where you leaning right now?

FRANCINE LOZEAU, retired teacher and undecided Republican: John Kasich. He's probably the most liberal of the conservative Republicans. I just think, you know, we've had two Bushes already. We've had enough Bush.

I don't think John Kasich can win. I'm worried about that. But I think I'm just gonna vote for him because that's what I feel like I need to do. He's moderate about everything.

He just seems like somebody that I would like. He's been more positive. Not tearing everybody apart.

Rubio, too. I like a little bit about his background. And I think that would be good for the office. But I don't know.

"He's probably the most liberal of the conservative Republicans. I just think, you know, we've had two Bushes already. We've had enough Bush. I don't think John Kasich can win. I'm worried about that. But I think I'm just gonna vote for him because that's what I feel like I need to do. He's moderate about everything. He just seems like somebody that I would like. He's been more positive. Not tearing everybody apart." -Francine Lozeau, retired school teacher, on support of John Kasich
Tara Harmon
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Tara Harmon

HARWOOD: Is it not important enough to have a woman president to vote for Hillary?

TARA HARMON, event planner backing Sanders: If that were the one deciding factor, if they both were saying the same thing and I agreed with both of them in the same way, then yes. Then I would choose her because she is a woman. But I just find myself with the issues agreeing with Bernie Sanders a little bit more. I know that she claims to not be establishment, but I think she definitely is. It would be nice to move away from that.

HARWOOD: How you think the country's doing? You don't look angry to me.

FRANCINE LOZEAU: Well, first of all, I do like Donald Trump's slogan, "Let's make America great again." I do like that.

I'm not angry. I'm fine. You know, I think that we can do better. I think we can be better. But I don't think we're right on the brink of total destruction.

HARWOOD: Is Iowa going to influence how New Hampshire people determine this?

MIKE MILLER: I don't think the Iowa thing's ever mattered. I've never taken Iowa seriously. There's been some weirdos that won it in the past. I mean, didn't Rick Santorum win it a few years ago? Didn't Huckabee win it a few years ago? Well, those guys are clowns. You know what I mean?