Know Your Battleground States 1/9: New Hampshire

New Hampshire, the smallest of the swing states with only 4 Electoral Votes at stake, is an odd candidate to be a battleground state. New Hampshire is relatively rich, overwhelmingly White and very pretty, with more than its fair share of whitewashed churches, traditional Main Streets and wooded valleys which look resplendent in the fall. Granite Staters are famed for a flinty, Yankee, libertarianism enshrined in the state’s official motto, “Live Free or Die” and the fact that the state has neither a sales tax nor an income tax. But this is the Northeast and the sort of social conservatism that plays well for Republicans in many other parts of the country plays badly in a state where same-sex marriage is legal. New England is often said to be the most European region of the United States, and that is reflected in a European-style collapse in religious observance in the region over the past generation or so. Gallup in the mid-2000s found that New Hampshire shared the title of least churchgoing state in the Union with neighbouring Vermont, while the state also has one of the highest populations professing no religious affiliation.

Plymouth Town Centre

Mitt Romney the Massachusetts governor — fiscally conservative but socially moderate-to-liberal — would be a perfect fit for New Hampshire. The small number of polls taken in the state in 2011 showed him with comfortable leads over Barack Obama, which reversed suddenly and dramatically when the Republican Primary forced Romney to the right, with Obama looking comfortable. After the first TV debate, the polls closed again and are indicating a dead heat at present. The average shows Obama with only a 0.8% lead in the state, although it remains underpolled. New Hampshire, long ignored in presidential elections once its Primary concluded in January, is now a vital battleground. For example, if Mitt Romney fails to make any breakthrough in the Midwest, he can still win – as long as he sweeps the southern and western swing-states and ekes out a win in New Hampshire.

The Sandwich Range in White Mountain National Forest

Perhaps no state epitomises the enormous regional shifts in American voting behaviour over the past generation. Once a reliably Republican Yankee stronghold, which voted for the Republican candidate at every Presidential election between 1948 and 1988, the Granite State has voted for the GOP only once since, when it was the only state in the Northeast to opt for George W Bush in 2000. Every county in New Hampshire voted for Barack Obama in 2008, as did all but one county in the whole of New England.

The southeast corner of the state, comprising Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties and centred on Manchester and Nashua, is noticeably more Republican than the rest of the state. This area is less than an hour’s drive into downtown Boston if the freeways are clear, and many native Massachusites have moved across the state line seeking cheaper property and lower tax. The state’s population exploded for a generation, doubling between 1970 and 2000, and although that has since slowed, most of that population growth was concentrated in Boston commuterland. This part of the state also gets its television from Boston, and Mitt Romney is a familiar figure from his spell as governor of Massachusetts in the early 200s.

Downtown Concord.

Between them, Hillsborough and Rockingham counties comprise 56% of New Hampshire’s population, and even in 2008 when Obama won the state by 10 clear points, he won Hillsborough County by only 4% and Rockingham by only 1%. He will do well to win either county this year.

Further north and west, however, the Democratic vote starts piling up, whether in blue-collar towns like Rochester and Somersfield, which powered Hillary Clinton’s come-from-behind Presidential Primary win in 2008, or the upscale retirement villages and college towns of the Connecticut River Valley, which favoured Obama. The short New Hampshire coast is another Democratic stronghold, and perhaps the most curious of them all is Berlin, a working-class former mill town way up north in the White Mountains and just 60 miles from the Quebec border. Despite its name, a majority of Berlin’s residents speak French at home.

New Hampshire in the Fall.

The area around state’s capital, Concord, dead in the centre of the state, is often decisive in New Hampshire elections, usually evenly split between the parties when the state itself is competitive, and prone to high swings.

State-level elections are also prone to wild swings here. Republicans were routed from office at every level in the Democratic wave year of 2006 only to sweep to crushing majorities in both houses of the state legislature in 2010, although Democratic governor John Lynch’s enormous personal popularity enabled him to hang on.

Pelham Congregational Church.

Romney almost seemed to have given up on New Hampshire over the summer, spending less than $100k dollars on TV advertising most weeks while Obama was spending around half a million. Republican Political Action Committees also spent patchily on advertising in the Granite State. As so much of the state is covered by Boston TV stations, advertising is expensive here and involves much wasted money spent on advertising to viewers in the reliably Democratic states around. However, Romney’s recent upsurge in polling has seen a little more interest from him and his surrogates. In the week to Tuesday, the Romney campaign spent $355k on advertising here, while Karl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC dumped in a cool $1.47M. Barack Obama hit back with a $1.29M ad buy. Still, ad spending here is relatively low compared to other battleground states and the big PACs are still not showing much interest.

If a narrow Obama win in New Hampshire leads to him squeaking back to the White House for a second term, the Romney campaign may yet live to rue the lack of attention paid to Granite Staters over the summer.

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  • Dewi

    It’s all Ohio ain’t it Gerry? Can’t see a winning route for Romney without it.

  • Less than 20 minutes ago I was speaking to a good friend who lives in New Hampshire, a small town across the State line from Massachusetts. I did not know about this thread but obviously spoke about the Election.
    It is her opinion that Obama will take it “easily”.
    A note of caution…she always votes Democrat.

  • Ulidian

    Gerry Lynch

    Please excuse my laziness in not looking it up, but does New Hampshire actally have 394+ seats in the state house?

  • Dewi – I’m not entirely convinced that it is *all* about Ohio, although obviously it’s the big prize at this stage. But look at the polling at present – Romney is not getting the surge in the Midwest he is elsewhere. E.g. RCP at present is calling Romney ahead in North Carolina, Florida and Colorado and a tie in Virginia. Let’s say Romney wins all those – he can put himself over the top by winning Ohio, but he can also do it by winning New Hampshire and Nevada or indeed NH and Iowa. Both of these scenarios are argubaly as likely as Romney winning Ohio.

    Ulidian – yes, it really does. And they pay their state legislators $100/year.

  • And as if to prove my point, Barack Obama just tweeted: “Bye, Iowa. Next stop: Denver.”

  • galloglaigh

    I actually have a photograph somewhere, of my good self standing at the side of the road, on Interstate 93, where the sign above my head reads ‘Derry No. Londonderry’. Of course the ‘No.’ is short for North, and it was before the exit for both towns. Thought I’d share that.

  • wild turkey


    a clear an astute analysis. i’m originally from connecticut but have friends who live in NH and the sense i get from them (admitedly a biased sample) is that when comparing the T party romney mark two to MoR governor romney, mittens comes off kinda shifty and sleazy.

    Overall, thanks for continually making the point that to be POTUS have to win states, not the popular vote.

    From my reading, Romney has not put away a single one of the must-have states. Obama remains the favorite because he only needs to win a couple of the toss-ups. Willard needs to win most of them. Some sectors of the media might be going along with the spin of a Romney surge. For them thats good business. it increases campaign media spin and lifts viewing figures. However, it’s not momentum but maths that gets you the big house and the awesome plane. and i think obama still has the maths.

    “Ulidian – yes, it really does. And they pay their state legislators $100/year.”

    Brilliant! Whereas the motto for the Stormont crew might be “I’ll live free until I die”

  • wild turkey


    small world. i’ve got a picture of that sign on my notice board. I sent a copy to the Roads Service here, but they weren’t particularly interested

  • galloglaigh

    Very good wild turkey, that was a regular drive for me, from Boston to Cannon Mountain, or Loon. Loved the skiing in NH and VT.

  • Hold on, hold on.

    If NH is a “battleground” State, Obama is really in trouble. Obama/Biden took NH by (a smidgeon off) a 10% surplus in 2008. Only in Rockingham and Belknap Counties were McCain/Palin within shouting distance.

    NH has been drifting Democratic over many years (2000 was the odd one).

    Once the GOP shills (why am I thinking Rasmussen?) are eliminated, stuff like Monday’s UNH poll (at least it’s close to the ground) indicate the way things are going. Yes, it’s not up to UK standards (conducted Oct. 17-21, only 773 likely voters polled, margin of error +/- 3.5 %). Still it’s 49/41 to Obama, and that’s massive —better than 2008. Even Rasmussen, with that weird inbuilt bias (well, they are the GOP official pollsters) only manages 50/49 the other way.

    So NH gets Joe Biden and Mrs Romney. No more, no less.

    One last twist: every one of the NH polls shows Obama/Biden way, way ahead with women voters — a 23% lead according to that UNH poll.

    Go figure.

  • If NH is a “battleground” State, Obama is really in trouble. Obama/Biden took NH by (a smidgeon off) a 10% surplus in 2008.

    Not necessarily. Obama won by 7% and a bit in 2008. It’s going to be closer this time. The nine battleground states have been pretty clear since August, when Pennsylvania and Michigan were effectively ceded to Obama and Ryan’s pick put Wisconsin in the frame.

  • wild turkey

    “One last twist: every one of the NH polls shows Obama/Biden way, way ahead with women voters — a 23% lead according to that UNH poll. Go figure.”

    your wish is my command Malcolm. From the late news Wednesday 25 Oct

    “Mitt Romney’s campaign has refused to withdraw his support from Richard Mourdock, the Republican Senate candidate in Indiana who claimed that pregnancies from rape are “something that God intended to happen”.

    New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte had been scheduled to campaign with Mourdock in Indiana, but her spokesman, Jeff Grappone, told the Associated Press that Ayotte disagrees with Mourdock’s comments, which do not represent her views. Grappone said Ayotte will remain in New Hampshire.”

  • galloglaigh

    pregnancies from rape are “something that God intended to happen”

    So what about gay people?

    That’s what annoys me about these idiots: They interpret this shit to suit their own narrow ends…

  • Dewi

    Hell i’m a bit ruthless – now i’d ask if Mormons are really Christians…

  • Comrade Stalin

    The details of Romney’s religious faith shouldn’t be a matter for criticism IMO. Applies to Romney as much as it did to JFK.

  • wild turkey

    “The details of Romney’s religious faith shouldn’t be a matter for criticism IMO. Applies to Romney as much as it did to JFK.”

    CS, only to the extent the candidate has clearly and firmly demonstrated their adherence to the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

    JFK in his Houston speech: Yes
    Romney: Given the above his continued support of Mourdock: doubtful
    Ryan, Akin, Bachman and a plethora ofassorted others: NO

  • HeinzGuderian

    Uncle Heinz’s Ante Post ‘Yankee’….(if you’ll pardon the pun)

    YES,to Scotland remaing in the United Kingdom
    NO united ireland by 2016
    Wee Rory to win the US Masters in 2013.


  • Framer

    Rasmussen got it right last time where others didn’t which makes one accept their polling results may also be this time.

  • Uncle Heinz’s Ante Post ‘Yankee’…

    A bookied would give you a woeful return on any of those bets except for maybe Wee Rory.

    How about a bet that would give you decent odds like… UKIP will come third in share of the vote at the next UK general election but still won’t have an MP, whereas the LibDems will have a couple of dozen and the Greens 2 or 3.

    Rasmussen got it right last time where others didn’t

    You’re kidding. Last time, as in 2008? Or 2010?

  • Framer

    Rasmussen were spot-on in the Presidential election of 2008.

    What were the predictions/polls in the Bush/Gore election?

  • They were pretty much a mirror image of this time, with a polarising President narrowly but consistently ahead of a flip-flopping Massachusetts-based challenger with little personal appeal.

  • Taoiseach

    Wild Turkey – where in the Constitution does it mention “the separation of Church and State”?

  • wild turkey

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

    — The First Amendment US Federal Constitution

    end of.

  • Taoiseach

    Precisely. The non establishment and free exercise clause. No reference whatsoever to “separation of Church and State” as understood by ACLU, Democrats etc who can’t seem to get their collective heads around free exercise.

  • 1. For those convinced that Rasmussen must have it uniquely correct, try Nate Silver’s piece from 22nd June, calculating “house effect”. It’s worth remembering that the “tracking polls”, as Rasmussen’s, are overnight telephone polls.

    2. As for the separation of church and state in the US, that is precisely the expression Thomas Jefferson employed in his 1 Jan 1802 letter (see it in the Library of Congress). That may be relevant, since the present Supreme Court is quite hot on “original intent”. David Barton seems to have a cottager industry with books on just this topic.

  • Kevsterino

    Jefferson wrote of a wall of separation, IIRC. Free exercise of religion is plainly guaranteed, but is not boundless. Forcing people to obey religious edicts dictated by leaders of churches to which Americans are not obligated to belong is not free exercise but precisely the sort of religious tyranny that drove many of our ancestors to these shores. That is my understanding of constitutionally protected religious liberty.

  • I have too much respect for Thomas Jefferson to allow him to be misrepresented. Here, then, is the text:

    To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


    The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

    I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem.

    Thomas Jefferson

    (The excision is in the original.)

    I’d see that expression the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions encompasses precisely what John Kennedy argued, and — ten days ago — Joe Biden (over reproduction rights) maintained. It is the contrary of what the Romney/Ryan platform is declaring — or what their ultra-religioso financial backers allow them to say.

    For what it’s worth, I have today been telephone-harangued by intelligent, highly-successful, Big Business, Number One daughter in Noo Joisey. She is emphatic that, if Romney were elected, she is not prepared to have her daughter grow up in a society which seriously argues that women should be subservient, and are less intelligent than men. I don’t know the the circumstances behind that, but if the GOP-types are perpetrating, actively or by default, such nonsense, they deserve political extirpation.

  • wild turkey


    your view has historical pedigree. it was the basic belief of King George III. it may be mad but it was very British. Fortunately, for my country and many others, Ireland excluded, James Madison fundamentally disagreed with the mad king, And I suggest, you.

    James Madison (1751-1836) is popularly known as the “Father of the Constitution.” More than any other framer he is responsible for the content and form of the First Amendment. His understanding of federalism is the theoretical basis of the Constitution.

    In summarising the first amendment, Madison stated

    “Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contary to their conscience, or that one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combined together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform ”
    source: Annals of Congress, Sat Aug 15th, 1789 pages 730 – 731).

    … and Taliban, sorry, Taoiseach, before formulating your reply, as a religous man, you may wish to consider Leviticus injunctions on onanism. Pray. Don’t spray

  • Greenflag

    malcolm Redfellow @ 8.43 pm

    ‘but if the GOP-types are perpetrating, actively or by default, such nonsense, they deserve political extirpation.’

    They may desrve it but sadly that section of the USA who will vote for Romney/Ryan and assorted troglodytes is made up of two halves . The one half fiscally conservative and socially more liberal the dwindling Eisenhower type republicans who could win support from some Democrats .The other half of the GOP is the mad Tea Partiers /Born again religiously minded nutters many of whom would fit right into the British National Union of Fascists . And truth to tell even the British National Front’s most brain dead members would find some of these GOP would be Congressmen and Senators to be too far to the right even for them 🙁

    Between ‘Rape is God’s will Mourdock ‘, ‘Legimate Rape Akin ‘and Evolution is bunkum Congressman Broun of Georgia the GOP is obviously piled high and deep with first rate ‘intellectuals’ who are just 500 years behind the times and in the case of Broun about 4.3 billion years 🙁

  • Framer

    Gerry – you wrote”They were pretty much a mirror image of this time, with a polarising President narrowly but consistently ahead of a flip-flopping Massachusetts-based challenger with little personal appeal.”
    Surely that wasn’t Bush/Gore which was almost even steven.