New Hampshire! New Hampshire! New Hampshire!

When the votes begin to be counted on election night, New Hampshire should be the first of the battleground states to be decided.  (I’m not counting North Carolina, which most agree is in the Romney column.)  At the end of the evening, when all of the votes are counted, New Hampshire may shrink into insignificance, but as the results come in, New Hampshire will rise in importance, and not just for symbolic reasons.

A Romney win in New Hampshire, coupled with wins in North Carolina, Florida and Virginia, will put him at 252 electoral college votes.  Obama will be in the position of having to win Ohio (18 ECV) or the election is over.  Obama could sweep all of the remaining battleground states and would still lose the election.  And, if Romney can pull off an upset in Pennsylvania, where people are still “bitter and cling to their guns and religion”, Romney will have wrapped up the election before we leave the Eastern Seaboard.

A Romney win in New Hampshire also means that Romney still has a credible path to winning the election even if he loses Ohio.  Winning Colorado (9ECV), where he has the lead, and Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin (19 ECV) would put Romney over the top.   By winning either Colorado or Wisconsin and both Iowa and Nevada, Romney could also get to 270+ ECV, although this is a less likely scenario.

Losing New Hampshire is less significant for Romney.  He could still claim the prize by winning Ohio and one of the remaining battleground states (most likely Colorado).  But losing New Hampshire will make Ohio even more critical to Romney, although he does have a pathway to winning even if he loses Ohio and New Hampshire.

There is every reason, in addition to the most recent polls, to believing that Romney will prevail in New Hampshire.  The state does not have a large minority population of African Americans or Hispanics that Obama counts on in other states to pull him through.  Romney has a home in New Hampshire, where the Romney clan spends their summers.  And New Hampshire is the most independent and libertarian of all of the New England states.  On election night, therefore, keep your eyes on New Hampshire.  If Romney wins there, this election may be over.  New Hampshire’s four electoral college votes are an important prize.