GOP Debate: The View From Exeter

Excerpts From New Hampshire Public Radio “GOP Debate: The View From Exeter”

June 6, 2007

“There was a long line of Republican presidential candidates on display in Manchester last night – ten in all, and they answered questions for about two hours in the first New Hampshire debate. About 30 miles away in Exeter, three undecided Republicans sat in a living room and watched the debate on television. …At the end of the evening, all three voters agreed, they found Arizona senator John McCain more impressive than they expected.”

New Hampshire Public Radio’s Jon Greenberg:

“Jay Kelly manages investments for a large charitable foundation in Massachusetts. …Jay, his wife Laurie and another Exeter Republican, Marie Warlick, were our debate watchers and like many Republicans, a defining issue for them is immigration reform – a topic that has divided the Republican Party.

“It was on this subject that McCain struck a chord with Jay Kelly. … After the debate, Jay felt McCain stood above the other candidates. Jay is frustrated by what he sees as the failure of Washington to make headway on anything. To Jay, McCain was the only one who demonstrated the sort of attitude and habits that lead to progress.

JAY KELLY:“He is across the aisle … He has reached out, he’s led an effort that resulted in a compromise that got something done.”

“John McCain also connected with these voters on Iraq. … A key moment came last night when he broke with the debate’s format, got out of his chair and walked across the stage to speak directly to a woman in the audience, the sister of a dead soldier. …

“Before this night, Marie Warlick who works at a medical testing lab, felt McCain was soft on immigration and not clear spoken on anything. She said he seemed to mumble a lot. But his words to the dead soldier’s sister changed that. It was the one detail Marie could remember later.

MARIE WARLICK: “I appreciated when he stood up – it was like this woman was important enough not to stay seated. He stood up and spoke to her. I felt that was important.”

“Marie said her opinion of McCain, while still tempered by his support for the Senate’s immigration bill, had definitely gone up. She said she used to worry that he was too old to be president but that she now felt that he had the energy and passion to do the job.

“All of the candidates had a couple of chances to talk about Iraq and their various answers had a curious effect on Laurie Kelly. She is deeply troubled by the war and questions whether America can influence events on the ground. But as she listened, her confidence in her own ability to evaluate the military and diplomatic options grew thin. … This uncertainty led her to look to McCain for a solution – at least for the time being. If McCain rose in the estimation of these voters, Mitt Romney did not. …”

Listen To New Hampshire Public Radio’s “GOP Debate: The View From Exeter”