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Off the beat

A chance presidential encounter, or not, in the Granite State

Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina (center) and Dr. Ben Carson (right) ran into each other while campaigning in Portsmouth, N.H., last week. At left is Carson’s wife, Candy.Photos by Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — It was one of those only-in-New-Hampshire moments. Presidential candidates bump into each other — on a street corner. While campaigning.

Luckily, Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are friends, having served together on the board of the Kellogg Co. So the Republicans met last week’s chance encounter in the heart of downtown’s Market Square with joyous wonder.

But voters?

Well, their response was a bit more resigned — and almost dismissive.

“Guess it’s that time of year again,” a passerby said casually after learning two presidential candidates were on the stump at the same time in the same place.

This is New Hampshire, after all. There’s only so much space for retail politics in this small state, where voters expect — yes, expect — to shake the hand of a White House hopeful, look him or her in the eye, and then start an inquisition on their issue of choice.

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This election cycle, when there are a gazillion candidates jockeying for the nomination, paths are bound to cross as they campaign in the first-in-the-nation-primary state. (OK. So technically, there are 20 candidates — 15 Republicans and five Democrats — in the race, but that’s still a lot.)

“How are you?” Carson’s wife, Candy, gushed while hugging Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO. Carson was wrapping up a conversation with voters a few feet away. As soon as the chat ended with a woman who, like Carson, grew up in Detroit, he, too, hugged Fiorina.

Their meeting was short, lasting minutes.

But it left enough of an impression that Carson commented on it when chatting with Dolores Lintz, owner of Tulips American Handcrafts, during his tour.

“Actually one of the other candidates, we just ran into a couple of blocks away,” he said while surveying the brightly colored jewelry and ceramics. “Don’t be surprised if she comes in here.”

Lintz wouldn’t be.

“It’s New Hampshire,” she said.

Presidential candidate Ben Carson hugged fellow presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Akilah Johnson can be reached at ajohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.

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