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New Hampshire should be easy for Romney, but not a lock

Arguably, Mitt Romney should have the advantage of familiarity in New Hampshire.
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, campaigned at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, November 5, 2012. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)
Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, campaigned at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, November 5, 2012.

Arguably, Mitt Romney should have the advantage of familiarity in New Hampshire. One of his homes is in the town of Wolfeboro, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee and of course he served a term as governor of neighboring Massachusetts, where many in crucial, populous Hillsborough County commute to work. He even announced his 2012 candidacy in New Hampshire.

But when Romney ran for president in 2008, New Hampshire Republicans chose John McCain (New Hampshire Democrats chose Hillary Clinton). And even in this year's primary, New Hampshire's largest newspaper, the conservative Manchester Union Leader, endorsed Newt Gingrich (a move perhaps foreshadowed by Sarah Palin bigfooting his candidacy announcement).

So there may be some question about whether New Hampshire Republicans are Romney Republicans.

For its part, New Hampshire, true to form as a swing state, can't be reliably counted on by either party. Since it broke a long red streak by helping elect Bill Clinton in 1992, there's been no clear pattern. New Hampshire chose Clinton twice, but opted for Bush over Gore in 2000, only to swing blue again for Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008.

Voting in the Granite State opens somewhat famously with a race to report between Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, which start voting at 12:01 and announce their results as quickly as it takes to count the handful of ballots cast. If the day plays out as polls have predicted, the state's four electoral votes will go to the president's reelection. FiveThrityEight blogger Nate Silver categorizes New Hampshire as a "Likely Obama" with a 2.6 point edge to the president.

Compounding the challenge for Romney is that New Hampshire's unemployment rate was 5.7% in September of 2012, well below the national average, no doubt taking the edge off the Romney campaign's economic messaging.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire State Republicans have been pursuing the kind of social agenda that has motivated a backlash among Democratic voters nation wide. They passed a union-stripping bill of the sort that activated Wisconsin and Ohio. That bill was vetoed by Democratic Governor John Lynch and didn't make it to law.

The new voter ID law in New Hampshire, however, did pass the governor's veto. That law is not fully in effect for this election, though. Voters who don't show ID can still vote with a provisional ballot. There seems to be some portion of the electorate who will do this on principle, but it remains to be seen whether there are any inhibitive effects.

State Republicans pressed a version of a personhood bill, drastically reducing the length of gestation time before a fetus is considered a person, and attempted to repeal state marriage equality rights established two years earlier.

And so it is that by Election Day, a New England College (NEC) poll that made headlines when it found a 5 point lead for Obama at the end of October shows him maintaining that lead at four points in their new (and final) poll, released Monday. This edition of the NEC poll also marks the first time President Obama has reached the security of 50%.

PPP finds it significant that 9% of Republicans say they'll vote for Obama but only 4% of Democrats are swayed by Romney. Their new poll (which disconcertingly has 2011 in the URL) puts President Obama's advantage at 2 points, again with the president reaching the 50% line. NEC, by the way, finds 16% of Republicans voting across party lines versus 7% of Democrats for Romney.

Also among the freshest polls is a WMUR-Granite State poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire (UNH), released Sunday night, showing President Obama with a four point, 50%-46% lead. That's not a hopeless situation for Mitt Romney by any stretch of the reading, but encouraging for President Obama nonetheless.