The Wash
Nikki Haley speaks with potential voters in a local New Hampshire brewery.

What is presidential?

Faced with a ‘disappointing’ slate, voters assess what they’re looking for in a leader.

By Abigail Pritchard

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Following former president Donald Trump’s win at the first-in-the-nation primary Tuesday, Americans are likely facing a Biden-Trump matchup in the 2024 general election. Numerous polls suggest that most people don’t want to see this, which leaves them asking what it means to be presidential?

Most Americans are dissatisfied with a face-off between President Joe Biden, 80, and Trump, 77, according to 2023 polls from AP-NORC, CNN-SSRS, and NBC. The problems? Age for both and indictments. Trump is facing 91 felony indictments across four separate trials. A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that while Trump could lead Biden in a general election, Biden would likely lead Trump if Trump were convicted of any of his charges.

Still, New Hampshire voters varied on whether Trump’s indictments are deal-breakers.

At a rally for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, India Boillot, 17, said, “He has no place being on the ballot, especially since he was impeached, and he has all the indictments against him.”

Adamant Trump supporters such as Richard Boddie, 50, however, think the indictments are entirely politically motivated. In the search for someone presidential, Boddie said he values Trump’s leadership and compassion.

“You stand back and watch him talk to people,” Boddie said of Trump. “He is humble. He will stand there, and he will listen to you talk. He will not speak over you. He wants to hear what you have to say. Do you think Joe Biden would do that?”

Voters at a Laconia Trump rally tended to agree that Trump is presidential because he’s tough.

Charles Bradley, a 75-year-old Laconia voter, said, “What makes somebody presidential is the ability to make tough decisions and see that they’re acted on.”

Sarah Zeballos, 18, is also looking for someone tough — and Haley is her pick on that front.

“I think toughness is being brave,” Zeballos said at a Haley rally. “I actually really admire Nikki Haley as a woman to go out there and stand your ground and ignore backlash. I think being tough is to be a little stupid and to be a little brave.”

However, Max Abramson, a New Hampshire congressional candidate, said he wants a “very civil Eisenhower-type candidate,” someone who makes the Republican party look good. He criticized Trump for bringing his “name-calling” into the presidency.

“You can kind of do that as a candidate,” Abramson said. “But once you’re president, you’re supposed to kind of bring the country together.”

Still, Abramson thought Trump had good traits.

“I think that a lot of people were impressed by how much he supports military guys, how clear he was on foreign policy.”

But Bob Daly, a 64-year-old Laconia voter, said that in looking for someone presidential, he was more concerned with Trump’s age than his indictments.

“The legal issues don’t bother me,” Daly said. “If I thought they were that severe, I wouldn’t be here.”

At the time of the rally, Daly didn’t know who he would vote for. His wife, Nancy, 60, also went back and forth on the issue.

“I don’t believe he’s innocent, but I don’t believe the other side is innocent either,” Nancy said. “What scares me is that we’re down to the same election that we had last time.”

Both Bob and Nancy said the slate of candidates is “disappointing,” partly because of the frontrunners’ age. But Nancy said that no candidate appears presidential.

“I don’t think they represent the values that I grew up with — honesty, integrity — and I think for years we’ve been lied to. By all of them,” Daly said. “So I don’t think any of them are very presidential in my book.”

The Wash Staff

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