MERRIMACK, New Hampshire — Thousands of Granite Staters, concerned with sky-high prices and the consequences of rampant illegal immigration, are heading to the polls Tuesday to cast the first primary ballots of the 2024 election cycle.
Former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are on the Republican primary ticket, while President Joe Biden is absent from the Democratic side. New Hampshire voters largely expressed concern over rising costs and affordability of basic needs, as well as the effects of the record number of migrant crossings the nation has seen under the Biden administration.
“When you’re living on social security, the economy is — probably nothing more important than the economy, because you can’t afford food,” Bob Riggi, a 74-year-old retired veteran who lives in Merrimack, told the DCNF. “You know, you go to the Market Basket, which is the cheapest place around, and you fill your basket up halfway, then it cost you hundreds of dollars! It’s ridiculous.”
Riggi is a registered Republican who supported Trump in the last two elections, and told the DCNF “they couldn’t pay me to vote for anybody else.”
“I voted for Trump for all the right reasons, man,” said Riggi. “Gotta close the border. Gotta, you know, you have to keep those illegal immigrants out of here. Because they’re causing a huge drug problem, and they’re taking jobs away from the American people. They may be minimal jobs, but there’s jobs. They’re draining money, they’re getting paid to do things we don’t get paid for. Am I right? The list goes on and on.”
Joe, a 47-year-old software salesman who asked to be referred to only by his first name, also expressed concern over the amount of illegal immigrants released into the country, as well as rising costs of food, gas and more when speaking to the DCNF at MaryAnn’s Diner in Derry.
“This breakfast is gonna be like 25 bucks, I’m not making 30% to 40% more than my paycheck,” said Joe. “You know, everything’s gone up. People complain about the price of gas, which is only part of it, but everything, you know? From everything you buy at the grocery store, everything. I want to make more money. Everything’s harder to find.”
The salesman is a resident of Auburn, but has been living in Florida for part of the year. Joe told the DCNF he’s voting absentee for Haley in the New Hampshire primary, but will vote for Trump again if he’s the nominee.
Trump is currently leading Haley by 19.3 points in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average for the New Hampshire primary. Haley came in third place in the Iowa caucus on Jan. 15 behind both Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has since dropped out and endorsed Trump.
Jerrilyn Sullivan, a 60-year-old chiropractor who owns her own practice in Nashua, told the DCNF that the fiscal side of the health care system and infant mortality rates in the U.S., as well as the state of the economy as a mother and small business owner, are top of mind.
“Of course the economy’s important. I want to pay less government, less taxes. You know, I work very hard. I work long hours. I have seven children, you know, they all put themselves through school, they work hard,” said Sullivan.
While Sullivan has always voted Republican, she told the DCNF she’s deciding between supporting Haley and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips for the primary. However, the business owner said she’d vote for Trump in the general if he was the nominee.
Jake Holden, a 39-year-old owner of a lawn care and snow removal company who lives in Hudson, told the DCNF that “keeping up with raising prices in my own business” is a top concern of his this cycle.
“That’s something that made me pay more attention to what’s going on in the world and in the economy,” said Holden.
The small business owner is an independent who is also considering backing Phillips in the primary. Holden said he voted for Trump in the last two cycles, and told the DCNF he’d do it again if there was another rematch with Biden.
Brian and Christina Mellor, a young couple in Merrimack with two small children, told the DCNF that they’re concerned about “women’s health rights” and “social programs.”
“I think just a level of civility too is what I’m looking for, and I can’t really say there’s a lot of people out there that are doing that,” said Christina.
The couple, who described themselves as independent voters, said they’re voting for Haley in the primary in protest to Trump, but told the DCNF they plan to vote for Biden in the general.
Registered Democrat Mary Ellen Stergiou, who is supporting Haley on Tuesday, also told the DCNF that “women’s health” is front of mind to her this cycle, as well as the affect of the economy on the middle class and the tense political climate.
“I just don’t like the way politics are being used to manipulate the world, our country right now. I don’t like the divisiveness, I wish that was gone,” Stergiou told the DCNF. “Definitely the economy, as well, for the middle class — which is shrinking.”
Damon Moore, a 29-year-old tattoo artist in Derry, New Hampshire, said he’s writing in independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Tuesday. The Air Force veteran told the DCNF he’s most concerned about the housing market, as well as child care and medical insurance.
“The economy is important, but I think [sic] for us, it’s like housing, that’s 90% of my income, right? Or whatever it would be, it’s mostly housing. So I think that’s outrageous,” said Moore.
Ernie Fredericks, a 62-year-old recent retiree who’s registered as a Republican in the state, expressed concern over illegal immigration, as well as the potential escalation in the wars abroad.
“I think I’m one of the odd balls that doesn’t believe the economy’s in the shitter,” said Fredericks, who’s supporting Haley in the primary. “For me, it’s border control, and I call it our standing in the world, but really what’s going on in Eastern Europe. What’s going on in the Middle East. What could go on in other regions.”
A retired construction worker named Joe, who also requested to use his first name only, is a registered Republican from Litchfield. Joe, who said he was undecided on whether to vote for Trump or Haley on Tuesday, was not optimistic about the likely choices for the general election, but told the DCNF he’d support the former president if it comes down to it.
“I don’t think Trump and Biden, either one of them, are going to be good for this country for the next four years. It’s just too much of the same,” said Joe. “I mean, I don’t know if either one of them can survive another four years. And, you know, it’s kind of a scary thought. We don’t know who Trump’s gonna have for a running mate. We know who Biden is going to have.”
Mary Lou Masters on January 23, 2024