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Candidates Address Convention For Those Disappointed With Partisan Divide

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Compromise is not a word that comes to mind when we think of American politics, especially given the deep partisanship at play these days. A group known as No Labels is trying to change that. Their mission is to end the bickering and encourage bipartisan solutions. And today, in Manchester, N.H., the group hosted what they called a problem-solver convention. Eight presidential candidates were slated to attend, and around a thousand people turned out to hear them. NPR's Asma Khalid was there too.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: For a sense of how strange this even was, imagine a hotel room where signs for Bernie Sanders are posted right next to a banner for Donald Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: When I say problem, you say solvers. Problem...

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Solvers.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Solvers.

KHALID: There was a superhero in a green spandex suit, a guy from the Brookings Institution and a lot of politicians. For the crowd, it was sort of like speed dating, a chance to meet eight presidential candidates between breakfast and dinner. And for many here, they're deeply disappointed with politics.

DEB DELL ORFANO: The fact that people aren't speaking to each other across the aisle in government, to me, is horrific.

KHALID: Deb Dell Orfano is a piano teacher and says she doesn't normally go to political rallies. But this meeting intrigued her.

ORFANO: I want to see people speaking to each other civilly. I want a statesman, and I don't see any statesmen yet, and it's disappointing.

KHALID: Most folks I talk to say they're undeclared. They weren't here for a debate on the issues. They want a change in attitude. Cheryl Faire (ph), a retired kindergarten teacher, says she feels disenfranchised from both the Republicans and the Democrats.

CHERYL FAIRE: I've always voted, and I'm beginning to think, what for? So this offers me hope that maybe someone's going to look at it a different way.

KHALID: But for some people, there was one politician in particular that seemed like a strange bedfellow at this conference for compromise.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: The word compromise is not a bad word to me.

KHALID: That was Donald Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: I like the word compromise. We need compromise. There's nothing wrong with compromise, but it's always good to compromise and win.

LIZ TENTARELLI: I think he wants things his way, period.

KHALID: Liz Tentarelli (ph) was sitting in the front row with a No Labels pin on her yellow cardigan and an old-school Nokia cell phone in her lap.

TENTARELLI: I think he'd have trouble working with anyone on either side of the aisle.

KHALID: The 71-year-old says she hasn't decided who to vote for, but she says there are some people she'll definitely vote against. This was a tough crowd for Trump. But a lot of people said they wanted to hear Trump even if they disagree. Seth Abramson (ph) votes Democrat and sees one benefit in Trump.

SETH ABRAMSON: The fact that he says things that are so unscripted causes people to have conversations that maybe they wouldn't have otherwise, even if I don't agree with Mr. Trump's prescriptions on any of these issues.

KHALID: For a lot of these voters, just getting a chance to hear so many political conversations in the same room for one day was a tiny first step toward ending gridlock. Asma Khalid, NPR News, Manchester, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.