New Hampshire will remain key election state
By Angie Cho , The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, June 29, 2012
While the national political scene is buzzing about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on the individual mandate in U.S. President Barack Obama’s health care law, New Hampshire itself is no stranger to a flurry of political activity. The historically contentious swing state continues to be a leading battleground for the upcoming presidential election, according to political analyses and major publications.
“New Hampshire is an important state every year with a lot of national attention,” Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesperson for Rep. Charlie Bass ’74, R-N.H., said. “It’s interesting because within the state, voters can be very easily split between Independents, Republicans and Democrats.”
Many states demonstrate an overwhelming tendency to vote for one party or the other, but New Hampshire has gone from supporting Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to John Kerry, all within one to two percentage points, according to The New York Times.
Although Obama won New Hampshire four years ago, former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., is fighting back with a message of lower taxes, less regulation and criticism of Obama’s economic record.
A Rockefeller Center poll conducted this in April showed that the economy is the most significant motivator behind voter preferences in the presidential contest, according to Michael Altamirano ’13, who worked on the poll’s statistical analysis with survey director and Rockefeller Center Associate Director and Ronald Shaiko.
Poll participants who were generally happier about their current financial prospects seemed to support the current administration, while participants with a less desirable situation tended to support Republican candidates, according to Chris Whitehead ’12, who also worked on the poll.
Social issues seemed to take a back seat to economic factors.
Invariably, the economic situation in reliably blue or red states is under less scrutiny than the economy of swing states.
Five key swing states — Iowa, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado and New Hampshire — have unemployment rates that are below the national average, suggesting a possible advantage for Obama, according to ABC News.
On the other hand, three other swing states — Florida, North Carolina and Nevada — have the highest unemployment rates in the country.
Despite lower unemployment numbers in some states, the overall forecast of national economic performance is not positive for many voters.
“It’s my experience that the president gets the lion’s share for credit and the lion’s share of blame,” Tranchemontagne said. “And the economy nationally and even in New Hampshire is continuing to struggle.”
The conclusions of the poll imply that the tight race between Obama and Romney has the potential to change radically based on the economic climate between now and November, both across the nation and within state boundaries.
Although the April Rockefeller Center poll demonstrated that Romney held a slight edge over Obama, current polls in The New York Times and CNN demonstrate that Obama has support from 51 percent of registered voters to Romney’s 43 percent.
The poll also showed a large margin of undecided voters who could be swayed by the recent European economic crisis or the recent upholding of the health care bill, according to Whitehead.
“Generally, the mood is unsettled,” Whitehead said.
With significant national press and attention from both campaigns, New Hampshire voters can expect to be “literally inundated” with millions of dollars of campaign efforts and ads that aim to sway the race, Tranchemontagne said.
Voters in the Hanover political scene may have different priorities than the rest of the state due to the presence of college students, according to Altamirano.
“I think Hanover is a little different from the rest of the state,” Altamirano said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if students and local voters would focus on the ideology of the elections rather than the economics.”
As the incumbent and current leader in the polls, the Obama campaign is working with the Dartmouth College Democrats and an informal Dartmouth for Obama group to raise student involvement, according to Holly Shulman, communications director for the Obama campaign in New Hampshire.
All major news publications predict that the race will be extremely tight from now on, according to Tranchemontagne.
“Polls depend on the month and the state, and with five months to go in this election, so many things can happen,” Tranchemontagne said. “Ultimately I believe the race for president and the race for Congress will be very close.”
Other campaign representatives did not respond to requests of comment by press time.