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Political Notebook

Obama visit to N.H. to focus on economy

President Obama will visit Nashua, N.H., Thursday to discuss the economy, White House officials said yesterday.

It will be the president’s second visit to the general election swing state in the last three months.

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In November, he visited a Manchester high school to promote his plan to extend the payroll tax cut as part of an overall jobs package. Officials did not provide further details on next week’s visit.

Obama won New Hampshire in the 2008 election over Senator John McCain, but the state shifted sharply to the right in the 2010 midterm elections, both in the State House and in its congressional delegation.

Political analysts have cited New Hampshire as a potential battleground, particularly if the Republicans nominate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

Vice President Joe Biden gave an election-style speech Thursday to a crowd at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester.

It was part of a three-state swing, including Massachusetts, to raise money for Democrats.

Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said Obama’s latest trip indicates New Hampshire is once again acting as a bellwether state.

“This indicates that New Hampshire is in the top tier of battleground states again, at least for starters,’’ Scala said. “There’s nothing more precious than the president’s time. The fact that he’s coming to New Hampshire himself is a strong indicator that they’re seeing the same kinds of poll numbers that public polling has been seeing lately.’’

Obama’s approval numbers in New Hampshire tend to lag other swing states, he said.

GLOBE STAFF

Indiana election officials to keep Santorum on ballot

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Election Commission is keeping Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on the ballot.

The commission voted 4 to 0 yesterday to keep Santorum on the ballot after Marion County officials determined he had collected enough signatures. The county’s Board of Voter Registration had previously disqualified Santorum for falling eight signatures short in the Seventh Congressional District.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

GOP-allied groups see Senate races as good bet

WASHINGTON - Republicans’ clear shot at winning control of the Senate is attracting tens of millions of dollars from GOP-allied outside groups eager to spend on a surer bet than a White House race with a resurgent President Obama and an unsettled GOP field.

Republicans need to capture four Democratic seats to grab the majority, and Democrats have all but conceded one - Nebraska - where Senator Ben Nelson decided against a third-term bid in the heavily GOP state. Control of the Senate will hinge on tight races in Massachusetts and Nevada, where Democrats see their best chances of unseating two of the newest Republican senators, Scott Brown and Dean Heller; Montana and Missouri, where Democrats Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill won narrowly in 2006; and open Democratic seats in Virginia and Wisconsin, according to Republicans, Democrats, campaign consultants and lobbyists.

By the numbers, the odds heavily favor the GOP; Democrats are defending 23 seats, including six open seats and one independent, to the Republicans’ 10.

But eight months to Election Day, Democrats are expressing optimism about their prospects of keeping the majority. Obama’s steadily improving standing with the electorate, signs of a healthier economy, and the lack of clarity in the highly divisive GOP presidential field are energizing Democrats.

The current Senate breakdown is 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Maher pledges $1 million to Obama super PAC

WASHINGTON - Political satirist Bill Maher got into the act Thursday night, pledging $1 million to a political committee supporting President Obama.

Maher announced during a Yahoo webcast special, “CrazyStupidPolitics,’’ that he was giving $1 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing the president.

A cynic on politics who often takes liberal stands on issues on his HBO talk show “Real Time,’’ Maher joins Dreamworks Animation executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Service Employees International Union as the committee’s top funders.

Katzenberg gave the group $2 million, and the union donated $1 million.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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