Ohio, Virginia, Florida and some other bigger states may be seeing the candidates on a more regular basis, but over the next 19 days, the battle for New Hampshire will be waged with the same intensity as elsewhere. The Obama and Romney campaigns differ about where the race stands here, but both agree that in an election as close as this one appears to be, no electoral vote can be taken for granted.
Recent public polls have produced conflicting portraits of the state of play here. One showed Obama with a six-point lead, while others show the race statistically tied. Obama campaign advisers say they hold the lead now and are confident they can keep it. Romney campaign officials say the race is a tossup. Democrats not working directly for the president’s campaign say they see a tie. In fact, they say that every top race in the state is tight.
“You could put a piece of paper between the two candidates right now,” Nick Clemons, a Democratic strategist with long ties to New Hampshire politics, said of the presidential race. “Both congressional races are very tight. The governor’s race is neck-and-neck. It’s a classic New Hampshire election.”
Tom Rath, a New Hampshire GOP strategist and Romney campaign adviser, said that “both candidates, both parties, are in a position to win.” That’s an improvement for the Republican nominee since mid-September, when he fell behind the president here as elsewhere. The presidential debate in Denver two weeks ago helped turn around his fortunes.
After losing the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, Obama won New Hampshire in the general election by nine points, a relatively easy victory compared with the slender margins that marked the two previous elections. In 2000, Republican George W. Bush won the state by one point over Vice President Al Gore. Four years later, Bush lost the state to John F. Kerry by a point. New Hampshire was the only state that year that switched from Republican to Democrat.
Since that 2004 race, New Hampshire has seen dramatic swings in its state elections. Democrats made a huge sweep in state races in 2006, dominating the legislature after years of Republican control. Two years ago, state Republicans stormed their way back into power, although popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch was reelected.
In primary elections, New Hampshire’s electorate is notoriously fickle, capable of shifts in the polls in the final days before the voting. Even in a general election like this one, many voters, especially the sizable independent bloc, may wait until the very end before deciding how they will vote.