New Hampshire may swing toward right in spite of history
By Emily Brigstocke, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, November 1, 2012
Due in part to President Barack Obama’s responses to ongoing economic instability, New Hampshire state presidential polls indicate a closer race this year than in the 2008 race between Obama and Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., underscoring New Hampshire’s role as a swing state, according to government professors Joseph Bafumi and Brendan Nyhan.
Despite the uncertainty, however, the state lies only on the periphery of both presidential candidates’ campaigns because its four electoral votes offer only marginal political support.
In 2008, Obama beat McCain in New Hampshire by a margin of 9.6 percent. Despite the Northeast’s increasing tendency to lean left, Obama has lost his edge in New Hampshire and across the nation since 2008, according to Nyhan.
The economic downturn offered an advantage for Obama and the Democratic party in 2008, which successfully blamed Republicans for the recession, Bafumi said.
“Now [Obama] has had three years to govern, and people don’t know whether they should put some of the blame on him,” he said. “They do feel like he’s done the best he can, but it’s been awfully sluggish.”
The attitudes in New Hampshire toward Obama and presidential candidate former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., mirror those present in other swing states, including Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin, according to media polls. Romney currently holds the lead in North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia, a slight advantage in Florida and Ohio and is looking to pick up an additional state, which could prove to be New Hampshire, Bafumi said.
Although Romney rescheduled his visit to N.H. in the face of Hurricane Sandy, the state “doesn’t have the big guns” in terms of weight in the Electoral College and tends to receive less attention than states like Ohio, Nyhan said.
“Is New Hampshire the most important state? No,” Nyhan said. “Is it very much in play? Yes.”
Because the race is expected to remain close across the nation, New Hampshire votes could play a role in determining the outcome in scenarios in which the vote is tied or one candidate wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote, according to Nyhan. Within the state, Obama has sustained a lead just outside the margin of error with the exception of a slight dip following the first debate.
“It looks like New Hampshire will probably go for Obama, but all it takes is a small swing by one or two points for that to change,” Nyhan said.
Emphasizing the role activists play in influencing this margin, student groups across Northeast college campuses have spent the past several months canvassing potential voters and volunteering with campaigns, according to College Democrats President Mason Cole ’13. At Dartmouth, student efforts have included door-to-door campaigning, phone banking, inviting political candidates to campus and hosting non-partisan awareness events. Candidates such as Rep. Charlie Bass ’74, R-N.H., and Democrat Ann Kuster ’78, vying for the 2nd congressional district seat; Democrat Maggie Hassan, running for the seat of New Hampshire governor; and incumbent Vice President Joe Biden all paid visits to the College this term.
“Every event we have, we’re working to some degree on registration information,” Cole said. “As we get closer to election day, we’re working with the national campaign and the College to make sure students vote.”