Tiny New Hampshire Could Have a Big Election Impact

Obama has struggled to fend off criticism of a struggling economy but economic issues will hurt him less in New Hampshire, a state that recovered from the recession much quicker than other states. (Its unemployment rate as of September was just 5.7 percent, well below the national average and seventh-lowest in the country.)

Dubnick, the professor of political science at the UNH, says the state's aversion to taxes and debt and its affection for small government could push voters toward Romney.

"He's made those issues central to his national campaign and those issues resonate here." Dubnick says women's issues – which are playing a big role in the gubernatorial and congressional campaigns in the state -- could help tip the balance for Obama.

The president is making a big push to reach women in a state with three women on the Democratic ticket: Maggie Hassan, who is running to succeed the retiring John Lynch against Republican Ovide M. Lamontagne; and Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster, who are challenging Republican Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass in the two congressional races.

"Through surrogates and advertising the president is trying very hard to appeal to women," adds Dubnick. "It has the potential to pay off in a state that's fiscally conservative but liberal on social issues." (New Hampshire was the first state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which eventually fell short of full ratification nationally.)

The outcome in New Hampshire will likely depend on voter turnout. Obama's grass-roots operation is thought to have an edge there but Republicans say Romney's team, in cooperation with the national and state GOP, is far ahead of what McCain did in New Hampshire four years ago.

Obama won New Hampshire comfortably in the 2008 general election after losing the state primary to Hillary Rodham Clinton. George W. Bush won the state by one point over Vice President Al Gore in 2000. Bush lost the state to John Kerry by a point four years later making New Hampshire the only state that year to switch from Republican to Democrat.

Romney, no doubt, is also banking on his many ties to New Hampshire to help bolster his chances in the state. A former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, the Republican nominee owns a waterfront home on Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro where he vacations each summer. Romney launched his campaign in New Hampshire in June 2011 and scored a decisive victory in the Republican primary. He then returned to the state to launch his general election campaign.

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