The New Hampshire Republicans who want to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg are hearing over and over again about the same thing as they campaign in the Granite State:
And even though the unemployment rate in New Hampshire (5.8 percent last month) is well below the national average (9.5 percent in July), what the GOP hopefuls are hearing -- and talking about a lot -- is that many people are very worried about how things are going.
Like John Morello, who runs the Time to Consign shop in Littleton, N.H. He opened the store three years ago, figuring that a bad economy would make people want to empty out their attics and fill his shelves. But he has to work two other jobs to make ends meet.
"I work here. I work at Home Depot. And I work at a restaurant," Morello says. "To pay the bills; it's the only way you can do it."
The Republicans vying in New Hampshire's Sept. 14 primary include Bill Binnie, Jim Bender, Ovide Lamontagne and Kelly Ayotte. Insurance agent Dennis Lamare is among the "lesser-known candidates" in the Republican contest, according to local news station WMUR-TV.
A lawyer and former state attorney general, Ayotte is generally considered the front-runner for the nomination, followed by Binnie, a wealthy businessman. Binnie has been putting a lot of his own money into TV ads, many of which attack Ayotte. She says she's not an "establishment candidate" since she's never run for office before (Ayotte was appointed attorney general). Binnie says Ayotte has "dealt with putting people in jail, for lack of a better term," while he's "dealt with putting people in jobs."
Like Binnie, Bender is a wealthy businessmen. He's been trying to distinguish himself from Binnie by appealing to the common man. "There's a shoe repair shop in Nashua Center," Bender says. "I've had five pairs of shoes repaired there since January. The other rich guy probably doesn't even repair his shoes; he buys new ones."
Lamontagne has the support of the Republican Party's right wing. "I'm the only conservative in this race," he insists.
The winner of the Republican primary will go up against Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes. In the last two elections, Democrats swept New Hampshire from top to bottom. But political scientist Andy Smith from the University of New Hampshire expects things will go differently this time, in part because of how nervous voters are about the economy and in part because Republicans are more eager for change.
"Republicans are highly motivated," Smith says. "Democrats aren't really happy about what's going on in Washington and the state of the economy. So I don't think the state is becoming more Republican suddenly. It's just that Republicans are going to get out and vote more than Democrats are."