As the Presidential race comes into the home stretch is there a more important “swing” state than neighboring New Hampshire? The Granite State has four electoral votes, but its influence far outweighs those four votes. If Al Gore had won New Hampshire George W. Bush would today be an ex-Governor of Texas. Democrats have never forgotten that lesson. New polling by Marist and NBC shows President Obama widening his lead in New Hampshire, and putting himself into the drivers seat in the Granite State.
New Hampshire, in the mid-terms, went solidly Republican, with the GOP sweeping to control of both Houses of the Legislature. I think it is fair to rate it as a former red state that is now purple, with a strong streak of independence. Democratic Governor John Lynch is retiring, creating an open seat race for Governor, which was also polled by Marist.
President Obama has opened a 7 point lead on Governor Romney in New Hampshire, leading by a 51% to 44% margin, with 4% undecided, and 1% for third party candidates (others). There is not a lot of room to move for either candidate, with only 4% undecided, but the President does not need to move much at 51%.
The President has moved into the lead from the dead heat recorded by Marist in June, which had the race deadlocked, with each candidate at 45%. This has come despite the fact that the right track/wrong track question has NH voters believing we are on the wrong track by a 51% to 44% margin.
Two other survey questions, in my opinion, are critical. The first is the job rating for the President. The President’s job approval rating is 50%, with 45% not approving. The second is the favorable/unfavorable question. “Do you have a favorable/unfavorable impression of ….”. On that question the President has a 54% favorable and a 43% unfavorable, while Romney is underwater at 52% unfavorable, and 43% favorable. Marist also measured the Vice Presidential candidates, and Paul Ryan was also underwater at 46% unfavorable, 42% favorable, and 13% undecided. (Yes of course Joe Biden was also underwater, but that, in my opinion, is less relevant to this race.)
I think the public perception of Romney has begun to harden, and this race shall remain fluid for only a short period of time. Whatever it is they are thinking about doing over at Romney HQ they better start moving, because the train is pulling out of the station.
The open seat race for Governor is very tight, with Democrat Maggie Hassan holding a two point edge at 47% to 45% over Republican Ovide Lamontagne, with 7% undecided. Lots of time and room for change in that one, although I suspect that the antics of the Republican Legislature, and the slippage by Romney, will give a slight edge to Hassan as we come down the stretch.