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Spencer Rendahl: Swing State

09/19/12 7:55AM By Suzanne Spencer Rendahl
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(Host) The stakes in the 2012 election are high, and New Hampshire will play a key role in it as a swing state. But commentator Suzanne Spencer Rendahl has noticed a humorous angle to the Granite State's pivotal role.

(Spencer) It used to be that most of the political fun of living in New Hampshire ended as the last bits of confetti hit hotel ballroom floors on our first-in-the-nation primary night. Our suitors wasted no time leaving our tundra-like winter landscape for South Carolina's warmer, greener pastures. I remember being ditched by Ron Paul's campaign in the middle of the night last January. No more calls. No more junk mail. Not even a robocall thanking me for the good times we'd had. I felt so used.

But now New Hampshire has become a swing state and our four uncommitted electoral votes could tip this election. So President Barack Obama, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and Vice President Joe Biden have been courting us with regular campaign visits.

Yes, this is the state where you can legally drive your motorcycle - without a helmet or insurance - to the liquor outlet store at your local highway rest stop. This state is so frugal that for many years it couldn't let perfectly good roadkill go to waste, so state employees collected carcasses, stored them in a freezer, and sold them at an annual auction to raise money for education programs. This state considers that having some of the worst recorded weather in the world is really something to brag about. And this state could decide this election.

Don't get me wrong. I love New Hampshire, but I haven't always found our quirks entirely endearing. I wasn't amused when, in the early 90s, friends and family members would burst out laughing after I told them my Congressman was a guy named "Dick" Swett.

Since buying a house, I've been so fed up with my steep regressive property taxes that at times I've considered jumping the Connecticut River for Vermont's kinder, gentler progressive income tax - and switch from the exposed and unforgiving White Mountains to Vermont's more gently sloped Green ones.

But then again, there's always been something freewheeling and raucous about New Hampshire that suits me. We gave the world rogue retired US Supreme Court Justice David Souter and renegade Olympic Gold medal skier Bode Miller, among others.

So it seems fitting that a populace so bent on living free wouldn't wear an engagement ring for either party. New Hampshire has seen an increase in senior citizens who tend to vote Romney as well as College graduates who lean Obama. It's both one of the whitest and one of the least religious states in the Union, thereby creating another toss-up. It has relatively low unemployment, relatively high incomes, and many sought-after independents. All in all, it's a campaign strategist's nightmare.

But if Al Gore hadn't narrowly lost New Hampshire during the 2000 election by a mere few thousand votes, he would have won the Electoral College. So as daunting as our demographics may be, we're well worth the long, expensive and frustrating courtship.
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