The late Tim Russert, NBC Washington bureau chief and host of “Meet the Press,” earned his status as a pundit legend during the 2000 election. Early in the evening of Election Day, Mr. Russert said the race would turn on one thing. Picking up a dry erase board, he wrote: “Florida, Florida, Florida.”
This year, those analyzing the Electoral College map are pointing to four potential Floridas: Colorado, Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire. New Hampshire, the only state that borders Maine, may end up in the national spotlight on Nov. 5, the day after the election, just as Ohio did in 2004.
According to electoral map analysis by the Web site electoral-vote.com, The New York Times, MSNBC and others, Sen. Barack Obama leads in as many as 15 states, equaling about 260 electoral votes, just shy of the 270 needed to win. Sen. John McCain leads in about 16 states, which would give him about 230 electoral votes. Some of the leads are small, and states could certainly switch from leaning toward Sen. Obama to leaning toward Sen. McCain.
If the analysis is correct, the Granite State could very well be a “decider” state, even with just four electoral votes.
All electoral maps show the rest of New England – Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut – solidly in the Obama column. New Hampshire, though, is different. About 44 percent of registered voters are neither Democrats nor Republicans.
New Hampshire gave Sen. McCain a new lease on his political life in January, when he won the state’s GOP primary. He also won there in 2000. The McCain campaign is expected to be a frequent visitor to New Hampshire this fall. Sen. Obama is there this week.
According to a story published in the Blethen Maine newspapers in January, New Hampshire is changing: “An influx of young families and early retirees has changed [its] political landscape. Not only is it the fastest growing state in New England, it has the seventh most mobile population, according to a recent study by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Most of the new migrants hail from liberal Massachusetts. They have helped New Hampshire’s population grow by 6.4 percent from 2000 to 2006.”
Linda Fowler, a political scientist at Dartmouth College, told the newspapers the in-migrants “tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”
New Hampshire gained 232,000 potential new voters in the past five years, meaning that 23 percent of the voting age population lived elsewhere in 2004, according to a different report from the institute, the newspapers reported.
New Hampshire has a Democratic governor and the party controls both houses of the legislature; it is the first time the party has controlled the lower house since 1911. Still, the McCain camp feels it has a special relationship with Granite State voters, who value his willingness to buck his party’s direction. Polls show Sen. Obama leading Sen. McCain, 45 percent to 44 percent.
The state’s motto, “Live Free or Die,” could portend an uglier recount fight than seen in the Sunshine State.