NH Draws Candidates, Despite Small Number Of Electoral Votes

11/06/12 7:50AM Ryan Lessard

AP Photo/APTN
Ballots are removed from the ballot box to be counted in Dixville Notch, N.H., as they cast the first Election Day votes in the nation. After 43 seconds of voting, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney each had 5 votes in Dixville Notch.

It's easy for the typical Granite Stater to forget how small New Hampshire is, especially during a presidential election year. Every four years, the state's political importance gets inflated by the proudly-touted First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary.

This year, New Hampshire's importance has lasted all the way to election day. And it's felt by casual and hardcore voters alike.

"I might vote this year. I might vote for Obama, you know? It might count this year even more," Tyler Payne said.

"Actually, it's my first time voting. My whole life, 50 years old, I've never voted in my life," said Neal Morrisette.

 "I think people feel it's more important to vote this year than in past elections, yeah," said Melanie Beauchemin.

"I've already cast my ballot," Matt Smith said. "I sent in my absentee ballot already."

So, how did we get here?

Andy Smith is the Director of the UNH Survey Center.

"New Hampshire is evenly divided or pretty evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans," he said.

With a mere four electoral votes, New Hampshire is the smallest of the swing state, but in this tight race, the state is getting plenty of attention.

In the past two months, more than 13,000 presidential campaign ads have bombarded New Hampshire TV viewers. And then there are the many visits by the candidates themselves.

Obama: "New Hampshire I still believe in you! I need you to keep believing in me."

Romney: "And the people of New Hampshire, you've been around a while, you've looked at politicians, you have clear eyes, you know how to judge what's what."

The reason for focusing on such a small state? Strategic math. Yes, it's a swing state but USA Today's Susan Page says this race is so close that tiny New Hampshire could be decisive.

"And because you can devise scenarios to get you to a tie between President Obama and Mitt Romney, it means that those four votes could make the difference and that's why you've been seeing the candidates in New Hampshire so often," Page said.

Page says the present-day campaigns are well aware of the outsized role New Hampshire can play.

"Everybody in politics remembers what happened in the 2000 election which was such a close finish," Page said. "And if Al Gore had gotten a few thousand more votes in New Hampshire, and won your electoral votes, he would have been president, not George W. Bush."

And history could repeat itself.

For instance, if the President wins the battleground states in the west and Romney wins the southeast plus Ohio, then New Hampshire's four votes will either provide Romney with the exact amount needed to win or put Obama over by two.

If you look at the polling averages, that seems like a likely scenario. Presently Obama has a slight edge in the Buckeye state. If he takes Ohio, with its 18 electoral votes, it would give Obama a comfortable lead. But the outcome in Ohio is uncertain.

So, if all other swing state projections become a reality, and Obama loses Ohio, both candidates will be looking to New Hampshire to select the next President of the United States.

Which plenty of people in New Hampshire seem to believe is as it should be.

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