SEABROOK, N.H. – Three friends in their 20s drove to Seabrook, New Hampshire on Sunday to hit the casino and eat lobster rolls. Meeting presidential candidate Nikki Haley was not on their itinerary.
They were undecided on who to vote for before entering the fried seafood joint, Brown’s Lobster Pound. After shaking Haley’s hand, they all expressed support for her.
“She got me a little fired up,” Jake Willcox said. His brother, Shea Willcox, said he has never voted but is now “excited” about her candidacy.
The former South Carolina Governor has packed her schedule leading up to the nation’s first primary with meet-and-greets that surprised many attendees and planned rallies to garner support from New Hampshire voters.
Before looping around the restaurant’s picnic-style benches to shake hands, take selfies, hold babies and hug constituents, Haley gave her stump speech and broke the news that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he was dropping out of the presidential race.
“May the best woman win,” she said to cheers and applause.
In her speech, Haley’s top issues were tightening national security, lowering inflation and improving education.
But supporters of former president Donald Trump, never-Trumpers and people who typically vote Democrat alike said they were most drawn to Haley’s personability and intelligence.
Restaurant-goer Chris Chanis said he has been Republican all his life, adding that he “couldn’t sleep at night” if he voted for former president Donald Trump.
Chanis and his wife drove from their Massachusetts home to New Hampshire for the beach and lobster rolls and were surprised to meet the presidential candidate.
“I don’t want Trump anywhere near power again, ever, in a million years,” claimed Chanis. He said that while he voted for President Biden in 2020, he might support Haley this year if she were the nominee because she is smart and professional.
Across the political aisle, fellow Massachusetts resident Demetrios Baraklilis said he would consider voting for Haley on Tuesday because she is “more refined” than Trump.
He said “it does seem like she does bring people together,” but that many politicians appear this way before gaining office. He added that he is leaning towards voting for the more familiar Republican candidate, Trump.
One New Hampshire voter who did not want to be identified said she would like to have a female president before she dies.
“These men have done a crappy job,” she said. “Women have ruled other countries. I don’t know why we can’t have a woman here.”
She said she is an independent who votes “for the person.” Calling DeSantis “a fascist,” she said she moved to New Hampshire from Florida because she disagreed with his school policies.
Haley is personable and attractive, she added. But, citing Haley not saying slavery is the cause of the Civil War in her response to a previous constituent’s question, the voter said Haley needs to “think before she speaks.”
In her comments at the restaurant, Haley presented herself as the forward-looking choice between Trump and Biden.
“They are so focused on investigations and things that they don’t like,” she said. “With me, there’s no drama, no vendetta, it’s just hard work.”