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Lauren Sandler Headshot

Can't Pick A Candidate? Perhaps You'd Prefer To Select A Decade

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Undecided voters continue to join the placard-hoisting faithful at rallies all over the state today, raising their hands to sidelong glances when asked by the candidates if their minds are made up. Some admit to being torn between two very unlikely lovers (Hillary v. Mitt? Obama v. McCain? Strange, yes, but true). Others say they feel left behind by the fervor surrounding the candidates leading in the polls this evening before voting booths open, wondering what the big deal is about Obama's rhetoric, or McCain's character.

At rallies, the undecideds compare score-cards on how many events they've attended for how many candidates. This afternoon, awaiting McCain's arrival in the snow-cleared square outside the statehouse, Scott Miller, a 38 year-old social studies teacher, shivering in hooded sweatshirt and ball cap, ran down his list with a friend who had recently converted from Giuliani's camp to McCain's. He had seen Obama speak last night, Edwards this morning, was planning on attending a Clinton event this evening, and had previously checked out rallies for other candidates. Miller, a self-described liberal and former Howard Dean fan (with Gore and Tsongas claiming his allegiance in the past), was discussing how if the nominees were Obama and McCain--the two front-runners here tonight--he'd have to choose McCain's experience over Obama's rhetoric, despite his policy preferences. Miller also admitted to being a Yankees fan here in New England. New Hampshire folk have certainly earned their reputation for an independence that can sometimes seem incomprehensible to people whose license plates don't antagonize out-of-state drivers with the modicum "live free or die."

It seemed today that voters were being asked to choose a favorite decade as much as a preferred presidential candidate. McCain's rally wrapped up to the I Love the Eighties soundtrack of Van Halen ("Right Now" ) and Journey ("Don't Stop Believing"). The senator peppered his short speech with references to his dear ole pal Ronald Reagan, and promised to regain the trust we supposedly used to have in government when Uncle Ronnie was in charge. Even the hair gel and bangs that turned out for the event were positively eighties--but then again, this is New Hampshire.

At Obama's rally at the stately Lebanon Opera House this morning, the way-back machine went even further. Obama kicked off his speech with talk about how he was born too late to participate in the civil rights movement, but you'd never know it based on the Ebenezer-Baptist-Churchy cadence of his oratory. He repeatedly invoked the gods JFK and MLK, and spoke about the power of a grassroots youth movement with frequent nods to the generational politics of the parents of his fresh-faced volunteers. And his song of choice? Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."

Last night in a high school function room, the crowd waited for Hillary Clinton to appear to the Lenny Kravitz nineties' staple "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" - which, considering the number of undecided voters in the room, hardly seemed like the rhetorical question the senator may have intended. Granted, as such an iconic presence in our last decade, it's hard for Hillary not exude the perfume of the nineties just by walking into a room, but last night she continued to make the promises to reset the calendar, even telling this tax-obsessed New Hampshire crowd that we could "go back to the tax rates we had in the nineties."

Her message was hardly lighting the room up with inspiration, but teacher Scott Miller, speaking at the McCain event, said it might have been enough to sway him. Despite how the numbers were adding up here today, he said she has demonstrated that she'd be a very effective president--but he was still waiting to hear the song himself at her zero hour rally tonight. But even if she sways a few voters like Miller, the likelihood of a win here--where many people thought the smart money lay just days ago--is probably, to quote EMF's nineties hit, so unbelievable.

Check out HuffPost's comprehensive on-the-ground New Hampshire coverage here.