Why NH’s Economy Is Especially Important For The 2012 Election

Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

While Obama won NH in 2008, there's no guarantee he'll snag the Granite State a second time around

At this point, politicos figure nine states could go to either Obama or Romney this November: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and…New Hampshire.  All of them went for Barack Obama back in 2008.  But New York Times reporter Michael Cooper notes that Republicans have also made some major strides in those states over the past few years.  And the rate of economic recovery looks very different in each place.  Cooper writes that a number of economic factors beyond the axiomatic “It’s the economy, stupid!” could be in play:

“It would be hard to argue that these states are better off now than they were four years ago, given that they have yet to recover the jobs they lost. Often, that makes a compelling argument for a challenger trying to unseat an incumbent.

But political scientists have found that past elections have been more influenced by the changes in the economy in the year or two before the election. And a range of economic data provided by Moody’s Analytics shows that all nine states are rebounding and that most now have unemployment rates below the national average. If voters in those states begin to feel the improvement by the fall and the economy does not take a turn for the worse, it could aid the president’s efforts to hold on to enough of them to win.”

So things are better in swing states than the rest of the country?  Well…Cooper reports it’s more of a “yes-and-no” situation.

“A recent analysis by The Financial Times found that job growth in swing states over the past year was slower than in the rest of the country, which could benefit Mr. Romney. Moody’s Analytics, on the other hand, said that its forecasting model, which is based in part on assumptions about how the economy will perform in each state, predicts that Mr. Obama will be re-elected.”

So against this backdrop, New Hampshire’s four electoral votes take on extra importance.  But a recent WMUR/Granite State poll on the subject is just as murky as the Times piece.  UNH Survey Center Director Andrew Smith writes:

“In spite of signs showing economic improvements, Granite Staters are sharply divided in their opinions of President Obama’s handling of the economy. Currently, 47% of New Hampshire adults approve of how Obama is handling the economy, 50% disapprove, and 3% are neutral. As with other approval measures, there is a considerable partisan gap –most Democrats (84%) approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, but only 36% of independents and 6% of Republicans approve.”

But economic pessimism in this particular swing state doesn’t seem to translate into a loss for Obama–so far, anyway:

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images

So far, poll results show economic pessimism hasn't bolstered Romney's chances in NH against Obama

“In a hypothetical race between President Barack Obama and Romney, 51% of likely New Hampshire voters say they will vote for Obama, 42% prefer Romney, 2% favor some other candidate, and 5% are undecided. Romney had led Obama for much of the past year before slipping behind in February in the wake of the New Hampshire primary.

Obama holds a strong lead among Democrats (92%) while Romney’s lead among Republicans is somewhat smaller (86%). Independents currently break to Obama by 40% to 35%. ‘The Republican nomination process has weakened Romney in his backyard,’ said Andrew Smith, Director of the UNH Survey Center. ‘He will have to consolidate support in New Hampshire and other battleground states if he hopes to defeat Obama in November.’”


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