Courting the undecideds
NASHUA - He didn’t quite have her at hello, but presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman had won Shirley Lelchuk’s vote before he finished speaking Sunday night. Lelchuk, a senior citizen from Nashua, had attended a house party thrown in Lieberman’s honor in the hopes that she might get to know more about him as a person. At the beginning of the night, she said there were “a handful” of presidential hopefuls she would consider voting for, adding that although she was a registered Democrat, she had voted Republican on occasion. “It’s about the person to me,” she said. Attending events like the house party hosted by Perry and Jan Silver of Parrish Hill Drive would help Lelchuk make an informed decision, she said. She had already met Rep. Dick Gephardt and read a lot about Howard Dean, she said. Lelchuk was not alone in her quest to get beyond sound bites Sunday night. Although the event attracted a lot of Lieberman supporters - the candidate said he recognized many of those gathered - it also attracted undecided voters, curious to hear Lieberman’s views on such issues as unemployment, health care, Medicare, foreign policy, abortion and gay marriage. The Nashua party marked the end of what Lieberman called a “classic New Hampshire primary day” consisting of six stops. The U.S. senator from Connecticut kept his speech short and spent the majority of his time fielding questions from voters. Lieberman said he believed the race for the Democratic presidential nomination was coming down to Dean and himself. It was important to have a candidate whose ultimate loyalty was not to his party, but to his country and the people he serves, he said. He said the Democrats need to nominate a candidate who could unite the party and pull in disgruntled moderate Republicans as well, singling out one such convert in the crowd, Rhonda Della Sala of Nashua. “America works best when it’s center-out,” he said. Lieberman also expressed concern that many Americans seem to be losing confidence in the country’s future, not a characteristically American trait, he said. “We’ve got to restore that,” he said. A retired doctor in the crowd asked Lieberman if there was “a Jewish vote” out there. The man said many Jewish Americans were worried about the possible repercussions of having a Jewish “numero uno,” including the threat it might pose to Lieberman’s physical safety if he were elected president. The presidency of John F. Kennedy had put the issue of a president’s religious orientation to rest, Lieberman said. Americans were ready to vote for the candidate who would serve them best, he said.