DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Now, for some perspective, New Hampshire accounts for a tiny portion of the delegates Republicans are competing for – just 5 percent. Bigger states later on in the election season will award many more delegates. But voters in the Granite State feel their votes serve as an important vetting process, a springboard for candidates. And NPR's Andrea Seabrook spent election day talking to those voters.
ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: The tiny town of Pembroke is lovely and rustic, nestled among wooded hills; old, clabbered barns; and fixed-up Victorians, steeples and brick against the sky. An icy river flows through town. On this crackling winter day, Lauren Dwyer stops by the local elementary school and pulls her 2-year-old out of the back seat.
ELIZA DWYER: Vote.
LAUREN DWYER: This is Eliza. Vote.
ELIZA DWYER: You're done.
LAUREN DWYER: You're all done?
ELIZA DWYER: You're done?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
LAUREN DWYER: Who you going to vote for? Ron Paul?
ELIZA DWYER: Ron.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
LAUREN DWYER: Say: 'Cause he's the best candidate.
SEABROOK: It's the little girl's first trip to the voting booth, her mom says - the first of many. In New Hampshire, primary voting matters; it sets the stage.
BARBARA DUMONT: I am Barbara Dumont. I'm from Pembroke. I voted for John Huntsman.
SEABROOK: Walking out of the school, Dumont says she's frustrated. She wishes she could vote not just for a new candidate, but a whole new slate.
DUMONT: I'm sick of Washington. I'm sick of - I'd like to clean house; start with a fresh Congress, and put some people in there that have some common sense and some desire to do something for the country rather than the political system.
SEABROOK: I heard this a lot in New Hampshire.
JOHN SPEZESKI: Both parties need to stop fighting. It's like, you know, one's fighting for this and that. Like, nothing is getting accomplished.
SEABROOK: Joshua Spezeski(ph) is out work. He drives a truck in the warmer months, delivering concrete; and in the winter, sand to cut the ice.
SPEZESKI: It's just, we need more weather. We need more ice and snow right now. So unfortunately...
SEABROOK: Spezeski voted for Mitt Romney.
SPEZESKI: I like what he has to say. He seems to be right to the point. And I know against as far as our president right now, I think Mitt probably has the best chance of going against him, and stuff.
SEABROOK: For Spezeski, the economy is huge. A school bus drops a load of kids off at the corner, and they rush to the playground.
(SOUNDBITE OF KIDS' CHATTER)
SEABROOK: A man in a Korean War baseball cap and a walker makes his way across the parking lot, toward his car.
THEODORE VAN PATTEN: I voted for Ron Paul.
SEABROOK: Theodore Van Patten(ph) is a retired minister from Pembroke's United Methodist Church. He's in his 80s now, and his thoughts reflect the votes cast all over New Hampshire.
PATTEN: Well, I like Ron Paul, old veteran. He's a straight-shooter. I would like to see Romney get to be president; Ron Paul be his vice president, if that could happen.
SEABROOK: Van Patten loves Paul's grit, his independence, and he wanted to make sure Paul came in second. He was pretty sure, he said, that Romney would take the top spot. On cue, Lucille and Bill Edmonds(ph) walk out their polling place, arm-in-arm.
SEABROOK: Do you have a second to talk? I'm with NPR.
LUCILLE EDMONDS: Oh, and I just voted for my guy.
SEABROOK: Yeah? Who's your guy?
LUCILLE EDMONDS: Romney, of course. Who else?
BILL EDMONDS: Romney for me, also.
LUCILLE EDMONDS: Who else? He looks like a president, and he's smart, and he'll do great. Give him a chance.
SEABROOK: They head off to their car, saying they think the rest of the country will come around to Romney, too, after New Hampshire shows the way.
SEABROOK: Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, New Hampshire.
GREENE: And Steve, you were hearing many of these same voices up in New Hampshire the last few days, covering the build-up to the primary. As you flew home yesterday, any impressions that stuck with you?
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Well, so much of this process is forced, is cynical, and you hear some of the frustration in some of the voices that Andrea brought you there. But when you're in New Hampshire, you also realize that this is a moment when the process is also very open. And you know from covering this in the past, David.
INSKEEP: People can still go - almost anybody can go see a candidate, almost anybody can get in, almost anybody might ask a question or even shout at the candidate. There is an openness that is exciting and heartening, although it becomes less and less as the process goes on. It becomes more and more controlled, more and more closed, as you get close to the nomination and close to the White House.
GREENE: And of course, as we go on to all of these other states, you, me and a lot of our colleagues will be out there covering the process as it goes on.
You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.