fb-pixel
ANALYSIS

N.H.’s latest political identity crisis: Is it even a swing state anymore?

John Kerry campaigned in New Hampshire in 2004. The Granite State is not getting the same attention this year that it got in previous cycles as polling has found its four electoral votes slipping away from President Trump.
John Kerry campaigned in New Hampshire in 2004. The Granite State is not getting the same attention this year that it got in previous cycles as polling has found its four electoral votes slipping away from President Trump.William B. Plowman

For the past two decades, New Hampshire has been in a golden political era. The small New England state not only began the presidential process, and was considered by both parties to be among the three or four tightest swing states, it was also a closer state.

Candidates headed north to close the presidential contest. In 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 campaign nominees concluded the last weekend or the last day of their campaign in the state, including election eve rallies from Mitt Romney and Donald Trump in the last two elections.

All that has meant the state’s 1.3 million people had more attention lavished on them per capita than any other place in the country.

Advertisement



But this year, the era might be over. The campaigns are not focused on the Granite State.

Yes, President Trump only lost the state by 2,700 votes, the narrowest loss for him in 2016. Yes, the state has a Republican governor and a Democratic Congressional delegation.

Yes, Trump’s campaign held an official office opening in Manchester over the weekend. The rally had good attendance by local standards and took place in the parking lot with some social distancing.

On Sunday night, Trump retweeted five tweets relating to the New Hampshire event, including one quoting Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager and Granite State resident as saying, “Dollar for dollar, New Hampshire is the best investment the Trump campaign can make.”

But looking where the dollars, staffing, and attention are going, the Trump campaign doesn’t agree.

Nor does Joe Biden’s operation.

Trump opened up his New Hampshire office with only a little more than four months before the general election. And his campaign staff there is largely split with other states.

Biden has yet to open his own office or name a state director. In 2016, Clinton had an office and named an entire local senior staff in April. For his part, Trump never closed the office he used in the primary and his state director was already in place.

Advertisement



What changed? New Hampshire appears to be slipping away from Trump. Polling is sparse in the Granite State, but the most recent poll, from Saint Anselm College last week, found Biden winning by 7 percentage points.

This means that the contest is tighter in Texas, where the race is tied, than it is in New Hampshire.

Indeed, very Republican Texas is now among the nine states getting the most attention from Trump and Biden and their affiliated groups.

Most of the money and hiring now is in: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and Ohio.

Each state has more than New Hampshire’s four electoral votes so winning these other states is also a higher-stakes proposition.

The truth is, dollar for dollar the best investment in the country might be elsewhere in New England: Maine’s Second Congressional District. Maine allots electoral college votes to each Congressional district. Trump won this area in 2016, but Democrats flipped the district in 2018, winning a Congressional seat. (Spending money here also has the added bonus of helping in the competitive US House race and in the nationally-watched US Senate race.)

Trump’s last trip to New England? Maine’s Second Congressional District, not New Hampshire.

Biden’s lead in New Hampshire could shrink. Should Trump begin to be more competitive nationally, New Hampshire could turn into a battleground yet again.

Advertisement



Though with only four electoral votes at play Team Biden and Team Trump likely will continue to focus elsewhere.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.