New Hampshire (4)

The home of the first primary, which prides itself on launching people toward the presidency with its winter voting, has developed a knack for backing winners in November, as well. President Bill Clinton won it in 1996, and Bush eked out a 7,000-vote victory in 2000, when Nader took 22,000 votes. This year, the state has seen more of the candidates in fall foliage time than ever before, and Kerry has emerged as a narrow favorite.

Despite the healthiest economy in New England, Republicans say the president has two problems. He was tardy in rebutting the criticism heaped on his record by all the Democrats running in last January's primary. And the independents who re-registered for a day to take part in that primary have, in many instances, remained loyal to its winner, John Kerry.

But Bush closed on Kerry after the GOP convention and was back for two stops in the state on Friday, drawing big crowds in Manchester and Portsmouth. Knowing that polls here often show the impact of personal visits, Kerry is coming back today, joining hundreds of other Massachusetts Democrats who have crossed the border to canvass for Kerry votes. In 2002 and some earlier years, the GOP beat favored Democrats with superior grass-roots organization and hope to do that again.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R) has only token opposition from activist Doris "Granny D" Haddock, the last-minute substitute on the Democratic ticket.

The hot race pits wealthy first-term Gov. Craig Benson (R) against another businessman, John Lynch (D), a first-time candidate who formerly headed the University of New Hampshire board of trustees. Benson's two years in office have been marked by controversy with the Republican legislature and several scandal-tainted personnel problems.

Democrat John Lynch, left, has a shot at unseating Gov. Craig Benson.