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Election 2012: Battleground Report

50-Plus Voters and Government

New Hampshire residents debate how much or how little government is needed

GOP candidate Mitt Romney has made small government a central theme of his campaign, promising a repeal of the health care law and a rollback of government regulations. President Obama has pledged to eliminate unnecessary regulation but insists that rules and laws — such as the health insurance mandate, banking regulation and greenhouse gas emission limits — are necessary.

The state has leaned more Democratic in recent presidential elections, after leaning Republican for more than a century. Longtime residents tend to fit the stereotypical leave-me-alone New Hampshire image, said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. But new residents drawn to New Hampshire's natural beauty and low unemployment rate are changing the political complexion of the state, Smith said.

Some older voters, too, are reevaluating their views of government.

Dave Knox, a 74-year-old retired teacher in Wolfeboro, never had much use for the teachers union. But now he's alarmed at what he sees as attacks on public sector workers to save tax money. And Cook, who describes himself as a "Barry Goldwater/libertarian-type guy," thinks citizens should pay up to support public activities. If the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire, "my taxes [will] be higher, and I'll scream like hell, just like every other red-blooded American," Cook said. But "the Republicans can't say anymore you can't have any tax increases" — a sign, perhaps, that the state's set-in-granite image as antitax and pro-limited government is beginning to crack.

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