Kensington, NH (CNN) – In fiery speeches and fundraising pleas, both sides in the 2012 presidential contest are stressing one common theme: This is a critical election year. It matters.
Voters may see it very differently.
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"Bottom line? It doesn't really affect me that much," said Mike Thomas, an unemployed construction and medical worker in Lewiston, Maine, who is precisely the American both President Obama and Mitt Romney say they care about most. But Thomas doesn't think either man can make that much of a difference in his life.
Thomas is part of CNN Radio's Embed America project. Two teams of CNN Radio reporters are driving across the country on an old school, report-the-issues-from-the-ground road trip, with one car driving from Miami to Los Angeles and another from Maine to Montana.
Day one in Maine and New Hampshire brought the first surprise: Voter after voter told our team they didn't think this election would make that much of a difference.
Mechanic Daniel Morelli in Kensington, New Hamsphire shook his head.
"I don't put that much stock in what they say and what they do," he said, "So I'm not gonna be excited."
About a mile down a curving road, a voter who only gave her first name, Lori, was checking her mail when she told CNN Radio, "There's nothing I can say, I don't get into politics, it's all BS."
Between them, Maine and New Hampshire only represent 8 electoral votes. And Maine is considered safe territory for Mr. Obama.
But New Hampshire is a closely-watched swing state. Both the president and Mitt Romney have visited the Granite State in the past three weeks, with Romney celebrating the fourth of July there.
But voters in the region seem to be deeply skeptical that either man would make a difference in their lives.
In New Hampshire's Rockingham County, an area that Obama especially needs to win, voter Jean Carroll looked out at a nearby highway, thinking about an election where she sees no candidate who can change the country.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do," she said.