Wednesday, November 16, 2011

 

The Democrats' New Hampshire Problem

Few states matter more in presidential politics than New Hampshire. Not only is it home to the first primary in the nation, but it also a classic swing state. In 2012, it is also supposedly home to a tight House race.

That's why the latest Selzer and Co. poll from the Granite State showing probable Republican nominee Mitt Romney with a 50%-40% lead over President Obama is major trouble for Democrats. If the poll is correct, New Hampshire*, as Sean Trende notes, is "sitting about five points to the right of the [national] electorate."

While it is true that Mitt Romney has somewhat of a home field advantage in New Hampshire because he governed next door Massachusetts and has been campaigning in the state for 5 years running, I propose a far more pro-Republican hypothesis for this New Hampshire vs. nation gap.

The voters of New Hampshire are subject to the political campaign earlier than our fellow countrymen. With non-stop ads running ahead of the presidential primary and candidate visits a dime-a-dozen, New Hampshirites might be moving towards the voting choice that historical presidential models of the economy indicate they will eventually choose.

That is, hard against a second-term for Barack Obama. Once voters from other states start receiving the campaign onslaught as much as Granite Staters, they could be making similar choices.

Worse for Democrats, a big Romney victory in New Hampshire could also have major implications for down-ballot races.

In 2010, Republican Charlie Bass won a very close race against Democrat Ann Kuster in New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district. With a rematch on the way, polling earlier this year had indicated that the slightly Democratic (with a +3 D PVI) district was headed for another photo finish. A 10% Romney win in the state would most likely carry Bass to victory.

Of the Republican seats rated as at least somewhat competitive by the Cook Political Report, NH-2 is tied for being 7th most Democratic on the national level.

A Democratic loss here would eliminate a big seat the Democrats could use on their march towards the 25 Republican seats needed to take back the House. Not only that, the inability to win such a Democratic seat would probably mean the Democrats lack the nationwide wave to win other seats in order to take back the House.

The good news for Democrats is that it is only one poll and it is still early. Maybe the Romney home-state advantage will be even bigger than fellow Massachusetts' resident John Kerry's, who did about 2% better in New Hampshire than he did nationwide.

Still, this poll is anything but pretty for Democrats.

*I should point out that my old friends with the NBC Political Unit, who have access to a lot of insider information (including state polling), have had New Hampshire in their lean GOP column for a few weeks.

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