8 Days to Election Day: New Hampshire

Polling in New Hampshire has been a roller coaster ride. Obama has led in the majority of them, but he never really put much distance between himself and Romney. Like Ohio, it is as if New Hampshire voters were simply waiting for some reason to truly like Romney because their support for Obama is not overwhelming. Even in 2008, despite winning the state with 54% of the vote and a ten point margin, there was a difference of only 68,000 of over 500,000 cast. Turnout was particularly high is 2008, but Obama cannot expect the same levels this year. There is hope here for Romney since the voters have been patient with him, but time is running out. Since the debates, however, there is momentum towards Mitt Romney. In September, among six major polls, Obama led by an average 3.83 points, but in October among 10 major polls, he leads by an average of only 1.7 points. And prior to the debates, his early October average lead was 6.5 points. Post-debate, that average has dropped to less than a point for Obama. So, clearly the momentum in this state is on the side of Romney and it becomes an important state in the electoral count. A Romney win here messes up the math for Obama. Additionally, one thing to consider as we enter the last week of the campaign is that New Hampshire, like Massachusetts, is the home to many medical device manufacturers scheduled to be hit with major taxes and fees to help fund Obamacare. A few friendly reminders by the GOP in New Hampshire would go a long way towards giving Romney that final push. As a result of this trend, I believe that Romney will “surprise” here and take New Hampshire’s four electoral votes in a fairly close vote.

Democratic Governor John Lynch is term limited and steps down this year. For the GOP, the candidate is no stranger to New Hampshire politics. Ovide Lamontagne is a Manchester business attorney who has run for office before, but failed. In 1996, he lost to current Senator Jeanne Shaheen and lost primary races in 1992 (US House) and 2010 (Senate). He finally won the 2012 Republican primary against relative unknowns. He proudly acknowledges the support of the somewhat fragmented state Tea Party. Using a common theme in state political races, Lamontagne’s main attack on his Democratic opponent is that they will renege on their pledge against a state income or sales tax (New Hampshire has neither). That Democratic opponent will be former state senator Maggie Hassan. She served three terms before the Republican wave of 2010 swept down into the state level races. Portraying Lamontagne as a conservative extremist, she is appealing to the more moderate Republicans of New Hampshire and independents by supporting unions, abortion rights, and gay marriage. She has also promised to return $84 million that was cut from higher education funding under Lynch. This is a tough race to call as it has been close all along, but let us give it to Lamontagne at this point.

Both congressmen are Republican- Frank Guinta in the 1st District and Charlie Bass in the Second. Both races will be rematches of the 2010 races. The First District is the more densely populated of the two and includes the town of Manchester. Guinta is the former mayor of that town. He gave up that title to run for Congress in 2010 against the Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter who will be his opposition again this year. While in Congress for four years, Shea-Porter basically followed the Obama agenda and voted in favor of the stimulus, auto bailout, cap and trade legislation, and what eventually did her in- Obamacare. It was during town hall style meetings where she came under the most harsh attacks. Mandates just do not resonate in a state whose motto is “Live free or die.” It is doubtful that Guinta will let the voters forget about that vote this time around also. Guinta won with 54% of the vote in 2010.

In the Second District, an open seat was created when the incumbent Paul Hodes decided to run for the Senate in 2010. He lost to current Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. Charlie Bass, the man that Hodes defeated for the Second District seat, opted for another run for the seat. His opposition in 2010 and this year is Ann McLane Kuster, a New Hampshire lobbyist and lawyer. If the Democrats are going to take a seat in New Hampshire, it will most likely be this one for several reasons. First, simple geography- it includes Concord and Nashua, two college towns that often are more liberal/Democratic. Second, Bass was the beneficiary of the Republican wave in 2010 and that is not the case this year. Third, he barely won in 2010 being more well known than Kuster since he was, after all, their congressman at one time. Fourth, there is a general dissatisfaction with Congress and that may cost current office holders their jobs this time around.

It would be real surprising if both incumbent Republicans were ousted this year, but very likely one will be ousted, most likely Charlie Bass. Thus, Republicans lose a seat in the House out of New Hampshire.

There are three questions on the ballot. The first, like several state constitutions, require that every ten years the voters be asked whether a constitutional convention should be convened to consider changes. This is that year in New Hampshire. The second asks whether the chief justice of the state supreme court should be the administrator for all state judges in New Hampshire.

The third question would ban any new taxes on personal income. As stated earlier, New Hampshire is proud of the fact they have no income or general sales tax. Since the 1950s, practically every winning candidate for Governor has taken a pledge not to institute an income tax. Only one eventual winner, a Democrat, did not take the pledge, but neither did they institute an income tax. However, there are business taxes, a general excise tax, estate taxes and taxes on interest and dividend income. If approved, this measure would ban any further taxation on any source of “income.” Opponents argue that this will likely lead to costly and time-consuming litigation over the word “tax” and “income.”

In conclusion: Romney takes their 4 electoral votes while Ovide Lamontagne becomes the Republican governor. The GOP will lose a seat in the House delegation this year, most likely the Second district.

Running totals thus far: Obama leads in the electoral vote count 237-205. Republicans lead in the Senate 46-40 and still control the House 185-168.

Schedule for final week: Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and Ohio.

Next: Nevada