Notes from Freedom, New Hampshire
MANY STILL WAITING FOR THE RIGHT REPUBLICAN
It’s no secret that many Republican voters — the ones who are even paying attention at all — are not crazy about this year’s crop of presidential candidates. Surveys have showed the enthusiasm level running low.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul has passionate followers, though, and drew a sizable crowd in iconically-named Freedom, New Hampshire, population 1,489, on Friday.
The visit stirred an otherwise peaceful morning at the century-old Freedom Village Store, which sells an assortment of coffee, crafts and antiques and is staffed by volunteers.
John Hogan, 77, a retired Navy intelligence officer, caused a ripple when he brought in a life-size cut-out of President Barack Obama shortly before Paul’s arrival.
Hogan said he hopes Texas governor Rick Perry will step into the race. Otherwise, he likes Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party favorite who has been rising in the polls.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has consistently shown 30 to 35 percent support for the New Hampshire primary, potentially enough to win the state. Romney’s 11-acre vacation estate on Lake Winnipesaukee is about 25 miles from Freedom.
George Clausen, 68, an investor, thinks Republicans will be pragmatic and unite around the person seen to have the best chance to defeat President Barack Obama, whom he termed a Socialist. Romney could fit that bill, he said.
Obama in 2008 got 52 percent of the vote in Carroll County, where Freedom is located, to John McCain’s 46 percent, making him the first Democratic nominee to win the county since 1912. An informal survey of residents suggests a reversal of fortunes for 2012.
Wayne Marshall, sitting inside a Noah’s Ark of taxidermic specimens in the Freedom Market — a gun shop, gas station, and convenience store hard against the Maine border — had some different ideas.
The right candidate needs to build up the military while ending “the welfare state,” said Marshall, 65, adding that rural America is “fed up with big government and unions.”
His dream ticket? David Petraeus, U.S. Army General and incoming director of the CIA, and Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State.
FAST TIMES AT THE FOOD PANTRY
Two years after the official end to the worst U.S. downturn since the Great Depression, demand remains brisk for the services of food pantry in Freedom, New Hampshire.
Judy Blake, 72, a retired businesswoman, has been running the operation, serving residents in need from three towns and surrounding areas, for almost two years.
Blake says she gets a feel for the economy by logging visitors to the pantry, which operates out of the First Christian Church of Freedom.
Individuals or families can come every two weeks to the ; some come less often.
“Every time I think it’s leveling off, it shoots up,” said Blake, who also compares notes with pantries in other towns. New Hampshire has about 400 food pantries.
Aid recipients fear being stigmatized, said Blake, who with her army of volunteers — including a licensed clinical social worker — attempts to put those concerns to rest.
Scott Adams, 36, of Freedom, an EMT for a regional ambulance service and a volunteer firefighter, has been surprised to join the “working poor” category.
It was “unbelievably difficult” to come to the food pantry for the first time, said Adams, single father to two-year-old daughter Paige. “But there’s a definite need.”
Blake says she tries to keep politics separate from her pantry work, but opposes Republican efforts to lower taxes for the richest Americans when many — working or not working — can barely scrape by.
Donna Davenport, 66, from nearby Center Ossipee, said she struggles to make ends meet, and worries that federal programs for the poor, including food stamps and fuel assistance, could be targeted for cuts.
Each month Davenport, a widow and mother of five, receives $998 in Social Security payments. Of that, $415 goes for rent. Higher gasoline costs are a further strain.
Davenport left the pantry with two cartons of food and household supplies, from chicken, bread and salad dressing to toothpaste and laundry detergent.
“I only come when I find the food stamps aren’t quite enough,” she said. “There are others who need help more than I do.”